COMPANY TOWNS: THE PATRONAGE SYSTEM FROM MEDIEVAL EUROPE TO THE AMERICAN SOUTH AND BEYOND
Many people assume the patronage system was a passing form of control in Medieval Europe, and the system simply vanished. This thesis argues that the patronage system moved from Medieval Europe to the American South and many of the aspects seen in Europe were able to adapt or evolve to fit the modern times. This system was built on large-scale land holdings, agrarian societies, reciprocal obligations, and a control that came from the local area without interference from any national powers. It is because of these aspects that patronage is not confined to any specific time, but has persisted to the modern day.This paper discusses the historiography of the system of patronage found both in Medieval Europe and the American South. By comparing what is written about these systems it is possible to extrapolate the importance of patronage in these societies. Although few write about the system of patronage moving from one period to another, the descriptions used to discuss the periods have striking similarities.In addition to discussing the similarities between the systems it is also imperative to discuss the differences. This allows us to determine whether the differences are a product of the system evolving, or whether the difference proves that an aspect is inherent to one period and not a necessity of patronage.Finally, the paper will briefly discuss how patronage has the power to exist into modern times. While the system has mostly disappeared from the developed countries it still exists in countries that are less advanced and still have unstable national governments and an overreliance on agricultural production. This section shows the patronage system as one that has not only continued over a thousand years, but also one that has the power to continue ad infinitum.Patronage has proven to be a deceptive system. While it no longer has the international power it once did, it has quietly remained a system that controls the lives of many people. It is this ability to quietly adapt that has allowed patronage to stay long after many thought it ended.
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Amundsen, Darrel W. (2004)
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