In comparison with some very large issues, such as ‘economic growth’ or the ‘feudal mode of production’, theories of ‘proto-industrialization’ appear but middle-sized. Still, the concept of proto-industrialization, devised more than 25 years ago by Franklin Mendels (1972, 1981b) seems to owe much to the spirit of the 1970s, fascinated as that decade was by long-term processes and large structures. For Franklin Mendels, protoindustrialization was the first phase of the industrialization process. For Peter Kriedte, Hans Medick and myself, it was a crucial element in the transition from feudalism to capitalism (Kriedte, Medick and Schlumbohm 1981). Since those heady days historiography has moved in a different direction. There is more interest in the specificity of individual cases than in generalizations. Identification of long-term trends now seems more doubtful, when detailed analysis shows that changes took off in many directions at any particular point in time. It may prove fruitful, therefore, to take up the challenge of micro-history and see whether it can lead to a different understanding of pre-industrial economy and society (cf. Schlumbohm 1998).