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The Scottish path to capitalist agriculture 2: the capitalist offensive (1747-1815)

Davidson, Neil (2004) The Scottish path to capitalist agriculture 2: the capitalist offensive (1747-1815). Journal of Agrarian Change, 4 (4). pp. 411-460. ISSN 1471-0358

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Abstract

The first in this series of articles left Scotland on the verge of agrarian transformation. Although the nation geographically nearest to England, it remained in 1745 considerably more distant in social structure. England was the first state unambiguously to complete the transition from feudal to capitalist agriculture. Unlike England, however, those that followed did not have a period of several centuries in which to undertake the process. Lenin identified the alternatives that they faced as the Prussian 'reformist' and American 'revolutionary' paths. Scotland was to prefigure the Prussian path, where the feudal landowners themselves instigated the transition to capitalism in the countryside. After the final defeat of Jacobitism at Culloden in 1746, the Scottish feudal landowners were juridically stripped of the powers (military tenures, local jurisdictions) with which a section of them had threatened the British state. They were, however, allowed to retain most of their power over their tenants. With no remaining alternative but to adapt to the capitalist mode of production, they systematically used these powers to reorganize their estates along existing English lines. The speed and extent of the transformation that followed remains unprecedented in Western European history.