Pre-industrial societies are those where the means of mass production of goods had not yet been developed by humanity. People used hand labor to create products, and this imposed certain limitations on the development of their societies. Moreover, many nations shared the same model for a community. Below is the comparison between modern research and the primary source of the pre-industrial era.
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Similarity of Patterns
Patricia Crone has created a work where she discusses the trends and elements of pre-industrial societies in the world, particularly those that existed in the West. She discusses several elements that served as reasons for all these societies to be similar, having much to do with the speed of production and the satisfaction of fundamental human needs.
For instance, she mentions that most people in the pre-industrial era were occupied in the agricultural industry. This is explained by the fact that the amount of food that could be produced without the help of various machines, plants, and chemicals was small and insufficient. Food resources were scarce, and it took a lot of human effort to satisfy everyone’s needs. This consequently affected the size of the population. There were not enough means to sustain growth, as an increasing population would face famine. Nevertheless, farmers were not considered poor despite the scarcity of resources. Of course, rulers were the most privileged class, yet people of all professions were regarded as a necessary part of the society’s model.
Another widespread profession in all pre-industrial societies was the military. From the time people chose farming over gathering and hunting, there were those who wished to use force instead of agricultural effort. It was necessary to protect crops from invaders wishing to take them away. Even though many rulers chose to wage war against their neighbors to expand their power in those territories, there was no real need for collecting more agricultural lands.
Hammurabi’s Law Code is one of the oldest documents to survive to the present time. It features the laws created by King Hammurabi during his rule in Mesopotamia, a country with a classic pre-industrial society that existed nearly two thousand years before Christ. The Code offers evidence supporting Crone’s findings of limitations for that period.
Hammurabi’s Code provides much information about how farmers were to be treated in cases where they broke the law and, specifically, if they did any damage to crops. Any loss of food was reimbursed with money. For instance, if farmers were too lazy or careless regarding the condition of fields they maintained and if this resulted in the loss of crops, then they would have been required to pay money to compensate the damage. If they did not have the means to pay the government, their property was to be taken away. Moreover, damaged fields were distributed among other farmers who would take better care of them. This measure was implemented due to the scarcity of resources as mentioned by Crone. The fact that so much attention is paid to farming underlines the importance of this labor, as well as serves as evidence that most people were working in this arena.
Farming was a key element in the pre-industrial era and shaped the model of the societies of those times. The limitations of hand labor determined the size of populations along with the rules and regulations imposed on farmers. The scarcity of resources, combined with the slow rate of production, served as reasons for similarities in all pre-industrial societies.