The concept of crisis came to historians through the labyrinth of analogy with biology and medicine, and analogies are useful because of their capacity to describe and explain what could not be explained better in other way. This has often led observers to see pathological elements where quite unexceptional processes are at work. For times like the preindustrial epoch, when instability was the norm and the economic trends constituted the real gears of society, the idea of crisis as an analytic tool shows obvious limitations. «The concept of crisis is itself a reflexive one, which not only recounts historical changes and ruptures, but also situates them within a complex semantic network». This archetype has answered too often to the central and ideological concerns of the twentieth century to be left aside, and so the need is to use it very gingerly. Crisis and stability have been inextricably linked in Europe for most of the early modern age – the old Continent always seems to be on the verge of disaster, only to prove incredibly resilient – but the criteria to define an economic crisis have always shown great variability and insufficient uniformity; the terms of the debate on economic crises in the preindustrial era seem often affected by failings in the methodological setting. Recently distinction has come in between aggregate trends and per capita gross domestic product tendencies, but historical analysis of these comes up against considerable difficulties in relation to the reliability and representativeness of the data chosen and/or available to indicate these magnitudes; also the endeavours to distinguish between crises of underproduction and crises of overproduction, or between local and general crises, or between trend and structural crises meet great setbacks; it is extremely complicated, and at times misleading, to isolate certain significant variables, detect their causal and functional relations, and assess their development over time. It is also indispensable to read the composition of these variables against the background of a cultural and theoretical context, essential for a full understanding also of the extent and nature of economic crises. Today, for the early modern age, the category of crisis is an analytic premise, a process in an organic conception of history, a turning point in a quantitative series, or even a linguistic bridge between various disciplines. Its versatility is one of its most attractive characteristics, provided it does not mean following the example of Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass, who asserted that the meaning of words depended on «which is to be the master – that’s all». For historians, whatever their particular field or background may be, words and concepts are no substitute for unceasing verification through sources and archives.
|Titolo:||Between Theory and Reality: Economic Crises and the Historiography of Early Modern Europe|
|Parole Chiave:||economic crises; historiography; Early Modern Age|
|Settore Scientifico Disciplinare:||Settore SECS-P/12 - Storia Economica|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2015|
|Tipologia:||Book Part (author)|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||03 - Contributo in volume|