The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 1, July 1897 - April, 1898

Thou;ghs on Economic History.

THOUGHTS ON ECONOMIC HISTORY.
BY MAJOR C. E. DUTTON.
It needs but the most superficial knowledge of history to realize
that the material or economic condition of the civilized nations
has through many centuries been improving, and at no period so
rapidly as during the Nineteenth century. During the decline
and dismemberment of the Roman empire, and for three cen-
turies after its fall, there was undoubtedly a general economic de-
terioration, reaching its lowest depths in the Eighth and Ninth
centuries. But when the feudal system became established and
comparatively settled, the first signs of recuperation began to ap-
pear. They were faint indeed, and were confined to a few localities.
They might be regarded as the premonitions rather than the reality
of improvement; valuable more for what they promised than for
what they actually effected. The recuperation was at first ex-
ceedingly slow, and it requires close scrutiny and comparison to
see that the condition of men and of society was better in the
Tenth century than in the Ninth, and better in the Eleventh than
in the Tenth. But after the Eleventh the signs of real improve-
ment were plain enough. From that time onward not only was the
progress continuous, but it is certain that in each century it was
more rapid than in the one which preceded it, until we come to the
Nineteenth, in which the advancement has been so rapid that we
seem to be separated by a great gulf from all anterior time, and to
be living in a new world.
We are accustomed to attribute this progress to the continuous
improvement in the arts, whereby man's power to command the
resources of nature and to convert the forces and materials of the
earth to his uses is greatly multiplied. That this is the proximate
means is obvious. But back of it is the slowly acquired and cumu-
lative knowledge of nature and her laws which renders such arts
possible to us. Still further behind is the slow growth of mental
habits, logical processes, methods of thinking and reasoning, which
are necessary to the acquisition of such knowledge, and which we
term scientific philosophy. So that, after all, this wonderful mate-

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Texas State Historical Association. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 1, July 1897 - April, 1898. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101009/. Accessed July 29, 2014.