West Midlands Regional Research Framework for Archaeology, Seminar 6: Welch Early Post-medieval Staffordshire



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West Midlands Regional Research Framework for Archaeology, Seminar 6: Welch

Early Post-medieval Staffordshire




Christopher M. Welch

Chris.welch@english-heritage.org.uk




Introduction


The brief for seminar 5 asked that contributors assess the known archaeological resource in terms of its regional, national and international significance, on the basis of current agendas and debates. For the long period covered by the seminar, there are many agendas and debates, but one is of paramount importance. Few would argue that in 1500, at the beginning of the period under consideration, England was a country where capitalism prevailed; nor would they argue that, at the other end of the period, the England of George II was feudal. So the transition evidently occurred in this period, and archaeology may have a contribution to make in identifying when, where and how it occurred. This paper therefore seeks to assess the potential of the archaeological record of one county, Staffordshire, and to determine where it might contribute to this debate.1


The capitalist system of production is one characterised by private property, by production for a market rather than for subsistence, and the existence of a class of wage labourers who have only their labour to sell and a class of capitalists who own the means of production by which capital is reproduced. The transition to a capitalist system does not occur overnight, and there were areas, either in trade and commerce, or in industrial production, which favoured the reproduction of capital more than others. It is this 'former topology of capitalism' which needs to be defined, and explained.2




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