Course: ECON 3R03 - The History of Economic Growth
Instructor: J. Leach
Most of the growth that took place in this era was extensive growth so we
are studying it only to set the stage for the institutional changes that were
necessary to bring about accelerated economic growth.
Almost 9 out of 10 people were engaged in food production, the standard of
living was so low almost everyone had to produce food in order to survive.
This is in stark constrast to the present day where only 5% of the population
is engaged in food production.
Wealth has always been associated with trade and access to goods that are not
locally produced. A thinner population meant that there were more empty
roads with an increased chance of mugging, this led to trade lessening and
cities becoming more isolated. At this time everyone is engaged in autarky,
they are just trying to stay alive.
In comparison to the Muslims and the Chinese, Europe was very primitive
and relatively poor at this time. Most of the land in Europe at the time was
very heavy and could not be ploughed with a scratch plough as was possible
on the Mediterranean shores.
The slash and burn technique of farming allowed good crops for a few years
only to realize the ground was depleted of nutrients and then move on to
another area. This could not lead to any sort of permanent settlement. This
changed with the introduction of the heavy plough in Europe, they could now
plough the heavy soil much better. Overturning the soil buries the weeds and
brings up all the nutrients from deeper down.
Once Spain was occupied by the Muslims there was occasional raiding into the
centre of Europe. While from the North the Vikings were a people who lived
by pillage and attacked the British and French continuously for hundreds of
years. This same principle applies to the Magyars, present day Hungarians.
In the interior of Europe the thin population led to banditry outside of the
safety of a manor mostly because bandits were fairly certain they wouldn’t
be apprehended after their attacks.
Lack of Markets