During the last thirty years, a fundamental shift has occurred in our views of the early modern economy. This shift hinges on the interpretation of the Industrial Revolution. Economic historians of the 1950s and 1960s stated that it was the single most radical break in the economic history of western Europe, the dividing line between a stagnant agrarian economy, dominated by Malthusian forces, and a dynamic industrial society, driven by the unbound Prometheus. The pessimistic work of German and French historians writing in the tradition of Wilhelm Abel-with their emphasis on the decline of real wages and the increase in poverty in Europe between c. 1500 and c. 1800-underwrote his interpretation of the Industrial Revolution as the great divide (Abel 1935). Leroy Ladurie’s histoire immobile (1977) is the most consistent interpretation of this stagnationist view. He described the French economy between c. 1320 and 1700 as characterized by a permanent production ceiling, which it was unable to break through until the middle of the eighteenth century.