chapter  I
23 Pages

I. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PERIOD

What is really new about this period, what strikes one immediately upon a general survey, is its revolutionary tendencies. They were nowhere triumphant, but they were felt in every department of life. The State and the Church were no more secure against them than was society. All the traditional authorities were criticized and assailed: the popes and kings no less than the landowners and the capitalists. The great masses of the people, who had hitherto endured or supported the power of the State, were now rebelling against it. No previous epoch had ever furnished so many names of tribunes, demagogues, agitators, and reformers. But there was no coherence in all this unrest, and no continuity. There were numerous and violent crises, but they were dispersed and of brief duration; the symptoms of a social unrest which was felt more acutely in some regions than in others, and which, according to the region, expressed itself in different ways. If we wish to realize the progress and the extent of this unrest, we must look for it, first of all, in the simplest and most general phenomena of social life-that is, in phenomena of an economic order.