The three examples I have chosen to consider are all very important instances of agrarian transformation. They illustrate, moreover, strikingly different experiences of transformation: differing paths of agrarian transition. England, the first historical example of such transformation, of ‘capitalism

triumphant’, one might describe as landlord-mediated capitalism from below – that, at least, is how I would choose to describe it. As Wood discusses in Chapter 2 of this book, the former feudal landlord class became a capitalist landlord class, letting its land to capitalist tenant farmers on fixedterm leases at ‘competitive’ rents, and ‘English farming came to be dominated by the triple division into landlords, (capitalist) tenant farmers and hired labourers’ (Hobsbawm and Rudé 1973: 6). The transition to capitalist agriculture proceeded vigorously in Tudor England in the sixteenth century, and was completed during the seventeenth. Not everyone would accept such a characterization. Robert Brenner (2001), for example, would dispute both its historical priority, arguing that this, in fact, belongs to the Low Countries, or any suggestion of its representing capitalism from below. In Prussia, by contrast with England, the class of feudal landlords – the

Junkers – had ceased, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, to be feudal landlords. Prussian feudalism gave way to a distinctive form of agrarian capitalism, in the wake of the ‘freeing’ of Prussian serfs in 1807: a transition to capitalism that came some three centuries after the English transition. Prussian feudal landlords ceased to be a landlord class and became a class of capitalist farmers, working the land with an oppressed force of wage labour, who had formerly been serfs. Here was Lenin’s celebrated ‘capitalism from above’: the impulse was an exclusively landlord one, accompanied by ‘the degradation of the peasant masses’ (Lenin 1964: 33, first published 1899). There was no question of capitalism from below. France embodies, one might say, ‘capitalism delayed’. Here, the capitalist

impulse in the countryside was frustrated, or at least significantly delayed, as noted previously by Wood (Chapter 2). At the end of the nineteenth century, France could still be portrayed as ‘the classical land of small peasant

economy’ (Engels 1970: 460, first published 1894) – a land, one might say, dominated by poor and middle peasants. Here, we have a stubbornly enduring peasantry: a peasantry that refused to go. Sharecropping was still widespread, and persisted well into the twentieth century. At no point had the French landlord class, either before or after 1789, shown any significant move of either the English kind or the Prussian. There was no dominant ‘capitalism from above’ and no broad progressive landlord role; and there was no ‘capitalism from below’, from within the ranks of the peasantry. In this chapter, I offer an explanation of how these different outcomes

came to pass and of why there was such a marked divergence in the nature of agrarian transition. I do so in terms of the kind of landlord class, the kind of class struggle and the kind of peasant differentiation that was integral to ‘agrarian transformation’; thus, I do so within the terrain of the agrarian question, as discussed by Akram-Lodhi and Kay in Chapter 1 of this book. I argue that the character of the landlord class and of class struggle has determined both the timing of each transition and the nature of the transition. Both the quality of the landlord class and the manner and outcome of the class struggle have sometimes delayed, perhaps for prolonged periods, and sometimes hastened, transition, and have had profound implications for the nature and quality of the transformation and how reactionary or progressive it has been. In this the state has always played a prominent part. I further argue that differentiation of the peasantry is central to transformation: it is not an outcome but a determining variable, a causa causans rather than a causa causata. My argument is that differentiation of the peasantry feeds into and interacts with the landlord class and class struggle, these being critical to the eventual outcome. Such, then, is the theme of the present chapter. Differentiation is no mere outcome. The distinctly varying trajectories in the three crucial instances are explained in these terms.