Front Matter

The book provides a fresh view on the role played by early modern political economy in creating the foundations of capitalism and modern economic development. Zooming in on a world region often overlooked or dismissed in grand narratives of long-term economic change and global divergence - the German-speaking lands -their idiosyncratic ways to modern capitalism will be examined by focusing on "cameralist" and related political economies, and the policies connected to it when Cameralism was translated into practice. Key themes include, by chapter, the role played by people discovering they had an open manageable future before them, markets and market design, money, monetary policy and velocity - of circulation, goods and money - and, lastly, manufacturing and the crafting of a modern world of goods. In this way the book gives voice to diverse approaches including conceptual history, history of ideas and numismatics when recovering and reconstructing a lost history of European capitalism and modern development through the fundamentally revolutionary idea that oeconomies and economic worlds could be changed, potentially with positive and expansionary effect, if only the right ways, means and strategies were chosen. This way the book adds an important nuance to common models of millennial world-economic change by focusing on political economy and ideas outside the Anglo-sphere and experiences of growth and managing change beyond the usual suspects or first modern economies with which the history of capitalism is usually associated.


Political Economies of Change in Preindustrial Europe

Philipp Robinson Rössner

First published in Great Britain in 2023 by

Bristol University Press

University of Bristol

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  • List of Figures and Tables iv

  • Acknowledgements vi

  1. 1Inventing Dynamics: Political Economies of Money, Markets and Manufacturing, 1300s–1800s 1
  2. 2Governing the Future: Capitalism’s Early Modern Temporalities and the Origins of Growth 23
  3. 3The Myth of the Myopic State: Governing Economy and the Politics of Economic Change, 1250s–1850s 47
  4. 4Configuring Free Markets: A Deeper History of Laissez-Faire 70
  5. 5Money and the Rise of Modern Capitalism 100
  6. 6Velocity! Money, Circulation and Economic Development, c.1250–1850 127
  7. 7Creating Wealth: Homo Manufacturabilis and the Wealth of Nations 148
  8. 8Manufacturing Wealth: Industrial Policy and the Rise of the European Economy, 1350–1850s 164
  9. Epilogue: State Capacity and Capitalism from Cain to Keynes: Money, Markets and Manufacturing 203

List of Figures and Tables


  1. 2.1Ngram of future 32
  2. 2.2Ngram of Zukunft (All) 33
  3. 3.1Der König überall (The King Everywhere), Robert Müller (aka ‘Warthmüller’) (1886) 48
  4. 4.1Sketch of a new market stall to be erected in the Leipzig weekly market (1765) 81
  5. 4.2Gute Policy or total social control? Number of ordinances relating to forestalling (Fürkauf), Holy Roman Empire, 1450–1800 84
  6. 4.3Trend lines for the number of ordinances relating to forestalling (Fürkauf) in imperial cities and the territorial states, Holy Roman Empire, 1450–1800 85
  7. 4.4Policing the market? Number of ordinances relating to forestalling, Holy Roman Empire, 1450–1800 86
  8. 6.1Number of coin hoards buried per decade in the area of today’s Federal Republic of Germany (1400–1600) 145
  9. 8.1Wrisberg Castle, c.1850 167
  10. 8.2Wrisberg faience: depiction of an odalisque, c.18th century 167
  11. 8.3Wrisberg faience: roller jug, c.1740 168
  12. 8.4Wrisberg faience: vase with lid, unknown date of production 169
  13. 8.5Wrisberg faience: heraldic lion presumably representing the Brunswick coat of arms 170
  14. 8.6Wrisberg faience: vase with chinoiserie motifs, c.1754 171
  15. 8.7Wrisberg faience: roller jug, c.1750–60 172
  16. 8.8Tile room (Fliesenzimmer) at Wrisberg Castle, Wrisbergholzen, Lower Saxony 173
  17. 8.9Albrecht Dürer, wire manufactory (water colour, 1494) 173


  1. 8.1Administrative offices and positions in mining in a typical mining district (Montanrevier) 196
  2. 8.2Further professions to be found in mining 197


This book is, as usual, the product of a few years of labour and input from colleagues and friends, among whom I would like to thank in particular Carl Wennerlind, Mark Casson, Xuan Zhao, Stefano Locatelli, Georg Christ and Gerardo Serra, for having read either the complete manuscript or select chapters in draft. Thanks also to one anonymous reviewer, for having read the entire draft manuscript. Special thanks for invaluable help and support over the years go to my friends and colleagues Carl Wennerlind, Prasannan Parthasarathi, Francesco Boldizzoni, Patrick- Karl O’Brien, John J. McCusker, Markus A. Denzel, Wolfgang Drechsler, Erik S. Reinert and Nuno Palma. I have also learnt a lot from discussions with Keith Tribe, Ere Nokkala, Marten Seppel, and Juha Haavisto. Erik S. Reinert’s comments and answers to my numerous questions have proved especially influential to my work. I am indebted to Paul Stevens at Bristol for being an exemplary editor and shepherding this project from start to finish. Guillaume Garner (Lyon), Arnd Reitemeier (Göttingen), Hans-Carl Hauptmeyer (Hanover), Suzanne L. Marchand (Louisiana State University), Volker Gehring (Hanover), and Karl Schünemann (Adenstedt) for providing advice on specific matters, sources and images. As usual I dedicate this book to my family and loves of my life, Britta, Ailidh and Marit Rössner.

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