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the history of our own country.
Hitherto the history of England, and particularly the history of our industry, our commerce, and our conquests, has been written almost exclusively from the middle-class point of view. Middleclass histories are still the text-books at all our schools and universities; middle-class political economy likewise finds favour in all directions. Even men who pride themselves upon their sympathy with the democratic system of our ancient Anglo-Saxon village communities have failed to see beyond the limits of their own class when treating of the affairs of the last two hundred years. At most the landlord class has been denounced as the chief cause of the degradation and impoverishment of the mass of the people during the period of the greatest increase of national wealth.
In beginning with the fifteenth century I have of course evaded the necessity of explaining in full the feudal system based upon serfdom ; and the earlier portion of the work makes no pretence to be a detailed historical record even of the struggles of the people. Later periods are treated more thoroughly. My indebtedness to the famous German historical school of political economy headed by Karl Marx, with Friedrich Engels and Rodbertus immediately following, I have fully acknowledged throughout. The chapters which deal with “ Labour and Surplus Value” and “The Great Machine Industry” seemed to me essential to a right understanding of our economical growth, though strictly speaking they are not historical. What a flood of light Marx's researches in this field have thrown upon the whole record of our development is not yet understood in this country. My references to the “ Capital ” are to the French edition, for the reason that French is unfortunately much more commonly known in England than German. An authorised
English translation will, I am told, certainly appear within the next few months, together with a translation of the unpublished second part. The works of Engels, Rodbertus, Held, Meyer, &c., however, are only to be read in German.
Since this work was in type an article on “ Socialism in England” has appeared in the Quarterly Review.
Forty pages are devoted to a little book of mine entitled, England for All,” published about two years and a half ago. The criticism, which is very laboured, has been fully met, by anticipation, in the following pages.
In leaving the book to the judgment of the public, I do so with the hope that, whatever errors and shortcomings I may have been guilty of, some readers will be induced to look more carefully than they otherwise would into the system of production and the social arrangements around them. My friends and fellow-workers of the Democratic Federation, whose zeal, enthusiasm, and self-sacrifice have given so great an impetus to the cause, will I trust find in it some help in the noble work they have undertaken.
10 DEVONSHIRE STREET, PORTLAND PLACE, LONDON, W.,
November 8, 1883.