No question that the precursor events of the 19th century industrial revolution in the 17th century transformation of England from an agrarian society, the first major country of that revolution, are of more than curious interest to modern readers (and radicals). While, as is to be expected, the focus of 17th century interest is the struggle between the monarchy and parliament in the middle decades of that century the ground underneath that struggle gets full exposition in this nice little academic book under review, The World We Have Lost: England before the Industrial Age, by the prominent English professor, Peter Laslett.
While there is plenty to disagree with about Professor Laslett's personal political perspective on the mid-century "disturbance," the English Revolution (so-called English Revolution by him which gives a timely clue to his sympathies), there is no denying that he provided (for the time, 1972) an exceptional amount of interesting material about marriage, life-spans, eating habits, physical size, sexual habits of some segments of 17th century English society. Using a mass of data (a 17th century-sized mass of data which is undoubtedly skimpy by modern standards) from church, town and court records he was able to bring some startling facts about our forebears (for those of us from that corner of Europe). For example, the smaller size than one would expect of the average peasant family (and larger size, including servants , of gentry families), the late age of marriage, the pushing of children out of the family household into their own (or into the burgeoning towns) as soon as possible and much other sociological data.
Professor Laslett, naturally, as a social historian working during the heyday of fierce interest in the English Revolution with such heavyweight names as Christopher Hill. R.W. Tawney and Huge Trevor-Roper leading the way has to weigh in on the various academic controversies of the day. For example, the rising or falling gentry as a factor in the revolution, the role of neutrals, clubmen, in local disputes during the period and other localist factors between competing gentry families). His work provides extensive footnotes and commentaries at the back amounting to about one hundred pages so be prepared for some very arcane material to work through. Not every book one reads needs to be in the same political universe as one's own, and this one isn't. What it does is give plenty of good information for further study and that is a virtue in itself.