Development of Modern Society

By William Morris

Entry 8628


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism Development of Modern Society

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(1834 - 1896)

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement. He was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production. His literary contributions helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, while he helped win acceptance of socialism in fin de siècle Great Britain. (From:


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The Development of Modern Society is a greatly expanded version of the first sections of Socialism from the Root Up. It was first delivered as a lecture for the Liverpool Socialist Society on 13 April 1890, and then serialized in five sections in Commonweal during the summer of 1890. Morris seems to have abandoned it as a lecture, and it was not published again until Nicholas Salmon's edition of ‘William Morris on History’ in 1996. It is nevertheless one of the best and most readable examples of Morris's fusion of the ideas of Ruskin, Morgan and Marx with his own detailed knowledge of medieval history. This version is taken from the original Commonweal, scanned and proofread by Ted Crawford with markup by Graham Seaman. Introduction by Graham Seaman, 25 August 2010... (From :

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“Development of Modern Society”, Part 1 Author: William Morris Source: Commonweal, Volume 6, Number 236, pp.225-6 19 July 1890 (the first of five parts.) Transcribed by: Ted Crawford Proofing and HTML:Graham Seaman ALL the progressive races of man have gone through a stage of development during which society has been very different to what it is now. At present there is a very definite line of distinction drawn between the personal life of a man and his life as a member of society. As a rule, the only direction in which this social life is felt is in that of his nearest kindred—his wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters. This is so much the case that we to-day have given to the word relations (which should mean all those with whom a man has serious and continuous dealings) a fresh meaning, and made it signify only those near members of kinship aforesaid. For the rest most civilized men acknowledge no responsibi... (From :

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Source: “Development of Modern Society” Commonweal, Volume 6, Number 237, 26 July, p. 237; the second of five parts. Transcribed: by Ted Crawford. Proofing and HTML: Graham Seaman BUT further, you must not fail to remember that the aspirations and nobility of sacrifice of the ancient city life were for [a] limited class only. In the old tribal life the slaves were not an important class, and also had easements, and even a kind of position which we do not associate with slave life, scarcely even with serfdom; as one may see in Homer, who, writing at a time when the tribal society was rapidly merging into city-life, gives us, for example, such a picture of a slave as Eumœus[A], who had at any rate plenty of pigs to eat, and also had a slave of his own “bought with his own wealth.” But as the power of production increased and commerce with it, such laziness and pieces of unthrift went out of fashion, and... (From :

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Source: “Development of Modern Society” Commonweal, Volume 6, Number 238, 2 August, p. 244; the third of five parts. Transcribed: by Ted Crawford. Proofing and HTML: Graham Seaman IN these country districts, both in England and elsewhere, they held for a long time to many of their old tribal customs; the jury of neighbors; frank-pledge, or the responsibility of the district for the conduct of its dwellers; the oath of compurgation; the courts in the open-air; the folk-motes of all the freemen meeting directly (not by delegates) and armed in token of their freedom. Over all this, which still existed in the beginning of feudalism, and never quite disappeared until its wane, the regular feudal system was super-imposed. Serfdom took the place of thralldom; the King and his house-carles, or private bodyguard, gave way to the King the head of the conquering tribe, who was the vicegerent of God, and granted the holding of lands to his tribesmen... (From :

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Source: “Development of Modern Society” Commonweal, Volume 6, Number 239, 9 August, p. 253; the fourth of five parts. Transcribed: by Ted Crawford. Proofing and HTML: Graham Seaman To these about the eleventh century were superadded another set of guilds, whose main object was the protection of trade, and which soon became powerful, and establishing themselves in the towns, drew together with the corporations, the freemen of the towns, and were fuzed with them. They shared in the degeneration of the municipal aristocracies, which reached its height in the beginning of the thirteenth century, and with them were attacked by the third and last set of guilds, whose office was the organization and protection of the handicrafts. These of course had been growing up with the growth of the towns, and the increasing capacity for production, and at the time I mention were organized pretty completely, and embraced, I think, the whole of the handicra... (From :

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Source: “Development of Modern Society” Commonweal, Volume 6, Number 240, 16 August, pp. 260-261; the last of five parts. Transcribed: by Ted Crawford. Proofing and HTML: Graham Seaman THUS fell the Society of the Middle Ages, by Capitalism establishing itself on the ruins of Feudality, and the rise of a middle-class who were either parasites of the nobility, themselves become commercial, trading on the grossest monopolies, and exacting rack-rent, and practically doing the state no service—partly parasites of the nobility, or partly employers living on the profit wrung out of workmen employed at a very low rate of wages. I have been giving the story of the change as it happened in England. On the Continent the divorce of the people from the land was not so sudden or complete, I think because there was less resistance possible to the centralized bureaucracy here than on the Continent. There, on the other hand, the rise of definite n... (From :


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