Since its introduction more than fifty years ago, the concept of a general seventeenth-century crisis has met with skepticism from most historians of Europe. Yet this historiographical latecomer persists as a seemingly necessary feature of early modern periodization. The economic contraction of the era is broadly accepted, but the crisis concept makes a larger claim—that the economic reversals led, ultimately, to a regrouping, a transformation of basic patterns and possibilities of European economic life. The challenge has always been to find a common thread—a credible theory—capable of tying together the disparate events of the time. The theoretical apparatus of fifty years ago may no longer serve, but more recent research offers possibilities for a rehabilitation of the concept of economic crisis.

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