Historical narrative commonly involves both description and explanation. The nature of the information available to historians gives rise to problems that seldom appear in other disciplines. For example, it is not possible, given the nature of historical data, to conduct controlled experiments to resolve uncertainties concerning the cause of a given event. It is normally the case that the concept of negative and positive feedback is a more appropriate framework for this purpose than causation. Such a framework can be used in discussing the interplay of demographic behavior, urban growth, and occupational change in facilitating England's escape from the constraints suffered by all organic economies. Comparison of the contrast in this regard between England and continental Europe helps to clarify the nature of the divergence between the island and the continent over a period of 300 years, from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century.