chapter
Economy
Pages 31

The technological level at which pre-industrial economies operated required that the majority of the population engaged in agricultural production and that most wealth was invested in land. By definition, pre-industrial economies show many common characteristics and variations are strictly limited. Nevertheless, a pre-industrial economy could operate within a settlement system comprised of a number of isolated farmsteads exploiting essentially similar agricultural resources and living in virtual autarky. This would be a non-hierarchized settlement system since the differences between settlements and the relationship (economic or political) between those settlements would be slight. At another level (this is not meant as an evolutionary model) some of the farmsteads might form small collectives such as hamlets or villages which would allow a certain amount of specialization and trade. A third system would have proto-urban or urban sites which might have regional administrative capacities and provide market facilities. Such sites draw surpluses from the villages sufficient to support a large population not directly engaged in agricultural labour and a greater level of specialization is possible, though centralization of craft and trade production may weaken village markets. A fourth system would centre on the great city, a city which maintained levels of specialization and political authority sufficient to draw surpluses from villages and cities over a very large area.