In this highly original empirical study, Winifred Barr Rothenberg documents the emergence of a market economy in rural Massachusetts between 1785 and 1800—decades before America's first industrial revolution. Drawing the data from exhaustive research in farm account books, probate documents, and town tax valuations the author makes a significant contribution to the long-standing and vigorous debate about the pace, pattern, and genesis of growth in the early American economy.
Rothenberg forcefully disputes recent historical interpretations of the preindustrial New England village as a so-called moral economy, insulated from the exigencies of the market. She discovers the simultaneous emergence of markets for farm produce, farm labor, and rural capital. Then, linking market integration to labor productivity growth and agricultural improvement, she confirms that market-led growth in Massachusetts agriculture lay at the origins of the American industrial revolution.