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New book: Demography Territory Law 2: Land-tenure and the Origins of Capitalism in Britain by Sheila Newman

Did fossil fuel cause capitalism or did capitalism cause the creation of the technology to use fossil fuel for industrial processes? Did population start to grow in Britain before or after industrial capitalism? Why did the industrial revolution begin in Britain? Were there any precedents? Beginning before Roman Britain, this work of evolutionary sociology also looks at how Doggerland, sea-level changes accompanying ice-ages and global warming, forestation changes, malaria and plagues may have affected population movement, along with kinship rules, inheritance laws, and access to distant and denser communities through new modes of transport. Then, departing from Roman Britain, the book examines changes to the political system, fuels, technology and demography during the Reformation, the Restoration, the Dutch capitalist revolution, and the Trade Wars, to the eve of the French Revolution, which is the subject of the next volume. Hint: The cover on this book is like a treasure map and contains the major elements of the final theory. Order Demography Territory Law2: Land-tenure and the Origins of Democracy in Britain.

Demography, Territory and Law (Volume 1: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations) identified a bio-social system that keeps populations in steady-state with their environments. In this stand-alone second volume, the author tests that theory on Britain, where the world's first remarkably fast and sustained population increase began. Did this growth coincide with disruption of clan and tribal organization and relationship to place? Other possible causes investigated include capitalism itself, as well as fossil fuel.

Did fossil fuel cause capitalism or did capitalism cause the creation of the technology to use fossil fuel for industrial processes? Did population start to grow in Britain before or after industrial capitalism?

The author finds that Britain's unusual population growth was built into the British land-tenure system, which caused more fertility opportunities and diverged from that of the Romans or their successors on the European continent. The author confirms the long held suspicion that this inheritance system had something to do with the development of capitalism in Britain rather than elsewhere, and this book develops a completely new theory of capitalism.

Beginning before Roman Britain, this work of evolutionary sociology also looks at how Doggerland, sea-level changes accompanying ice-ages and global warming, forestation changes, malaria and plagues may have affected population movement, along with kinship rules, inheritance laws, and access to distant and denser communities through new modes of transport.

The book finds that the industrial revolution was not inevitable, but more likely in Britain than elsewhere because of the confluence of land-less labour, proximity of coal and iron, and deforestation after the injection of gold and silver from the New World. As it produces more private property and capitalism, the peculiar British system increases wealth disparities and reduces democracy. In France, however, population increase and industrial capitalism did not develop spontaneously, but a democratic revolution did.

Demography, Territory and Law2: Land-tenure and the Origins of Capitalism in Britain



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Fascinating and original scientific and social investigation of the origins of capitalism in Britain, using a new evolutionary sociology theory and political systems comparison (including France and Holland), with scholarly reviews of alternative theories. Explores significance of Britain's odd land-tenure and inheritance system and asks where it came from, finding answers to questions preoccupying legal and economic theoreticians since the 13th century, with a demonstration of inheritance law in Hamlet. A specialist in geopolitics and energy resources, the author weighs up the roles of different fuels and technology and the availability of labour in the British industrial revolution. Many factors impinging on Britain's unusual population growth are reviewed, including diseases, transport and fertility opportunities. Alongside economic history this complex but sparkling work chronicles changes to the environment, from climate and sea-level changes to forest cover.


I’ve managed so far about 140 pages in your Vol 2. Wonderful stuff. I’m every day impressed by the breadth of your research and reading, not to mention how brilliantly you’ve put it all together; not to mention you’ve turned so much of what we (I) thought we knew on its head.

One big thing I’ve learned since my last is that the basis of the British class system arose out the Norman invasion when Britain was forever changed: it became occupied territory and l the key former stabilizing institutions were overturned. Years ago I read David Howarth‘s 1066: The Year of Conquest, (1981), whose theory that the Pope‘s intervention turned out to be decisive in giving the victory to the Normans. It forced the British King to adopt an ultimately losing immediate do or die strategy instead of a more strategic plan of waiting out the invaders. In his fine book, Howarth made a point of explaining that pre-invasion stable and effective British institutions were in place and were overturned and crushed by the Normans. Since his book stopped in 1066 I hadn’t realized the effects of how the occupying force over time created the rigid class system with its attendant ramifications.

So now I can understand better how these kinds of imperial interruptions – as with Easter Island – can overturn clan based systems and turn a sustainable society into inequality and injustice.

I’ve just finished your coverage of Henry VIII, Cromwell, the Civil Wars. I’ve never been clear on that era and I had no idea of the ramifications for the economy and the forests.

I’ve got Dirt on interlibrary loan. From only the first few pages I can see what a terrific writer he is. I’m looking forward to squeezing him in at some point.

Thanks for mentioning the bit about Malthus when he got a chance to see sustainable communities. I gather you’ve gone beyond him in ways I still haven’t. He’s still my main man.

Capitalism vs the Rest

I guess my main query is where does science, technology and other things we call progress come in? Is progress bound up with inequality? I think of Newton for example who never had to work and lived off the bounty of his inherited estate. I think of Malthus’s dictum of the empty table where if you’’re not invited, you don’t eat. What if Newton had to work for a living?

You’ve made clear that you’re not exactly a fan of capitalism. I’m someone who tends to place importance on leadership as opposed to systems. I’ve long concluded that private property and the profit motive -- the bases of capitalism ? – are the most effective means of production and distribution. And capitalism’s ills? From a technical /theoretical point, it would seem a trivial matter to emplace the necessary safeguards of transparency, oversight, anti-monopoly strictures, and adequate provisions for health care, education, social welfare, as well as sustainable management of the environment, i.e., regulation and legislation.

Of course in the real world, there is politics and corruption. But doesn’t the real world also impact public ownership, socialism, anarchism, communism? Worst case of course in any system is tyranny, Stalinism. Which is of course is why institutions which provide for contested changes in leadership – shall we call this democracy? are the best chance of adequately responding to evolving circumstances.

I gather you believe there’s a way to get back to sustainability from our present position if only we could localize production and distribution. I wish I could say I can see it, although you’ve already convinced me of plenty I’d didn’t think I’d change my mind on.

On this larger question, my sense is that our huge outsized numbers make for unsustainable politics. Is it possible to imagine leadership campaigning on platforms of no growth? It seems too evident for words that we’re in an unsustainable trajectory with leadership in the U.S./Israel, Britain (EU?) etc., bent on a high speed acceleration off the cliff that Hitler sent us towards.

Off the cliff?

How do we explain or deal with our Bush-Cheney-Obama world? Why are we in such a fix? I can only think in Malthusian terms. Resource pressure, the power of ruthless leadership, the dearth or elimination of alternative positive leadership. How did we get to a Lincoln, FDR – people who helped get us to a measure of stability? And then there’s Hitler who brought us the CIA and its powers. And then there’s LBJ who eliminated the leadership that could have helped get us on a more sustainable track.

Hi Ronald,

You ask whether anyone is pushing a platform of no growth. I would be interested to know when the mania for 'growth' really began. I'm aware there was a populate or perish view after WWII, but that was quite specific to numbers and defence. Today, growth is a mantra.

I don't see this obsession with growth much prior to the 1970s or 80's, in the same manner as today. It was growth for a specific objective, but not just growth for growth sake. Or perhaps I'm mistaken.

I have a view that the rate at which an ideal is vocalised, is inversely proportional to its existence or security. People who are insecure about their status are usually the ones who talk about it the most. As our society becomes more intolerant of differing views, we yell 'tolerance' more. As our government take away rights, they talk more of 'democracy'. Hitler talked a lot about peace, more than most other leaders of the time.

I'm wondering whether the constant talk of 'we have to grow' is due to the inability to cater for the lack of it. After the baby boom, population growth rates in the West declined, until the 90's when for many Western nations, they went below replacement levels. Technically, if it weren't for immigration Australia would probably still have a birth rate slightly below replacement. The economic and political leaders panicked. They ramped up immigration, and talked of growth. Why did they panic?

I think the answer is simply because they weren't capable of dealing with the post growth paradigm. The world was changing, and no economist or political had any idea how to ADAPT. Their view of how the world could work was narrow. They couldn't see how we could develop to the new reality. So instead of adapting, they tried to change the environment, so they wouldn't have to adapt. This isn't working well, and we are dealing with its failures.

Even today, you speak to people, they genuinely appear to believe that there is no way possible that our society can still prosper without "growth".

At the moment, world economic growth is slowing, stalling, and this seems to be a new long term trend. This is because we haven't adapted to the new reality, and the patchwork we are putting over our society to pretend the world hasn't changed is suffocating us. The financial malaise we have is not a protracted speed bump, which we will 'recover' from. It is our civilisation slowly choking.

All species have to adapt to change or die. We have an entrenched political and economic class which cannot adapt, and refuses to allow society to adapt. So we slowly die. More and more control has to be wrested away from the people, to stop this adaptation occurring. Populist parties which challenge this patchwork have to be suppressed.

There are so many questions because the area of discussion is endlessly complex. With respect to population I feel it is a mistake or at least very limiting to narrow one’s understanding to one explanation, one dynamic, one force and that goes for Malthus, too. ?
I have read both of Sheila Newman’s books on population, (the first quite some time ago). I am familiar with the content of “Demography, Territory and Law: rules of animal and human populations.” And would see the system Newman describes as an intricate, subtle, interlacing of knowledge and powerful natural forces that have previously been observed and been documented in nature. The systems Newman describes in “rules of animal and human populations” where populations are stable in size over time, are natural ones that have not been interrupted or displaced. Malthus in his lifetime was mostly observing human populations which had been displaced and disorganized and were growing rapidly, although, as Newman observes, his later work recorded stable sized populations in Europe, for instance, Switzerland's Leyzin and he said that his first book had been inspired by the small populations of Australian Aborigines reported by Cook or Banks visiting with the Endeavour. It is important to see that the stable and the overshoot scenarios are both possible on one Earth even at the same time!