The industrial revolution in Europe had been preceded by urban changes. Since the eleventh century not only had thousands of towns been founded, particularly, in northern Italy, southern and western Germany, northeastern France, southern England and some other areas, but this process had also been accompanied by the emergence of the bourgeoisie, by the spreading of simple commodity production and by the development of capitalist production relations in the form of firms putting out work and of manufactures.1 Due to the autonomous position of the bourgeoisie vis-a-vis the feudal lords it had in many towns become possible for the first time in economic history to politically safeguard the results of commodity production. The consequence was that the profit mechanism-the appropriation of surplus labour of journeymen and even wage-labourers by master craftsmen, by firms putting out work and by manufacturers-became effective as a new motive force for the rapid development of the productive forces and, thus, for economic growth. In the feudal states of Europe the sector of non-agricultural production expanded, although to a different degree. It contributed to weakening the feudal basis, to stimulating — to a certain extent — the expansion by European feudal lords of mercantile and trade capital and, eventually, also of the colonialism of the absolutist states. All this leads to the formation of the world market during the sixteenth century and conditions the further development of capitalist production relations.
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