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The century 1540-1640 in England was a period of profound
change, almost universally regarded as the dividing line between
the old and the new. At a point half-way in that hundred-year span
the educated Englishman's mind and world were still more than
half medieval; at its end they were more than half modern. Recent
work in fifteenth century agrarian history and investigations into
fifteenth century commerce and trade have blurred the black and
white of any abrupt transition from feudal to capitalist England
by emphasizing the non-feudal elements already at work in medieval
society and heralding its disintegration. In the same way,
studies in eighteenth century social stratification and commercial
and agricultural organization have made clear how distant the
society of that age still was from the industrial and finance capitalism
of our own day. Thus exaggerated and excessively sharp
lines have been softened and the extravagant claims sometimes still
made for the period sensibly reduced. Nevertheless, it remains true
that in the years between 1540 and 1640 disruptive and creative
forces accelerated the normal process of change to a degree that
makes the century, unless we except our own, the most conspicuous
example of rapid and many-sided transformation in English history.

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English legal history, Tudors

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