Economic Structure 9/18/2012 6:06:00 PM
Basic economic structure of Europe—agriculture was the main way in the
middle ages, it was a source of wealth, and the ownership of land was a
source of status as well.
The collapse of roman system results in far few population. So, there is
no need to experiment diff kinds of crops, lands are abandoned,
agriculture was continued in a very primitive way.
Technology started to change things: the classical one field system was
placed by 3 field system. People were healthier. Also, people found to put
lime on the land, it was good. The old Mediterranean plow didn’t work in
the northern Europe, change—a metal plow was more efficient. The
problem was that it was very heavy for a horse, the result was that a
heavy wheel plow was invented. Also, a horse collar was invented for
horses to pull the heavy wheel plow. Horses were expensive however, so
ox were still the main animals for farming.
Eat meat was sign of status for landlords. Peasants who actually live the
land lived differently, they lived in villages. The villages were the central
structure of medieval agriculture-called a manor. A manor included 4-5
houses of landlords, if the landlord have several manors, there was
someone in diff manors to take change of the manors.
Then there was a village of peasants. They were either free (could come
and go), or they were part of the manor (they were bound to the soil,
they were a part of the manor, like properties.)
The manor was supposed to be able to support exactly 1 knight, it should
not be so large so that peasants could walk home after a day.
Manors fallow certain principles:
Even if a landlord could have 100 manors, each one manor was a
separate unit, and governed by diff systems. All that matters to the
people living in one manor was the tradition of that one manor. So,
everything became localized and dependent.
Money was extremely scarce. With the collapse of Roman Empire, there
was no one make it. Powerful people were rich in lands, not in cash. Land
was useless unless you have someone to work on it. Without peasants,
lands were useless.
The producer of a manor were traded with other products around the
manor—it was a barter system.
How did this economy work without money for centuries?
Peasants work on the land had to give to the landlord crops in return for
living, the other parts of the manor had to –agriculture was cooperative,
you don’t just work on your own, but work together and get your share of
food based on your lands–this system worked well because everyone had
enough to eat and food to sustain and reproduce themselves.
It was not slavery, but cooperative. Numbers were small, there was not a
surplus of labor market. The population was small, so you basically stay
where you were born. Your views were local, you only contacts were
basically families from other manors. And the life was not so bad.
Because you were protected—food, security, (landlord protect you
because you were his tools to make food), and you were part of a
community. –put into historical context
No peasants had all the peasant lands in one land, they were distributed
by narrow stripe—to make sure that no one family got all good or bad
lands. And with the invention of heavy wheel plows, you need the
cooperative system because there is no one peasant family could afford
all the tools and animals for farming. Share of responsibilities and share
poor soil but important. In common lands that you were allowed to feed
your own animals. By feudal law, no one owns this, it belongs equally to
a communal building used for religious rituals; and used as constitutional
meeting hall. Almost every single manor in Europe look like this, but each
one was also unique due to its own customs.
All these customs of the manors were not written down, but passed on
through practices—which means you cannot change it. The only
protection that peasants have was this custom / tradition, which explains
why the peasants community was extremely conservative.
What fundamentally alter this system?
The invention of money.
The economic change behind medieval system made changes occur
rapidly–this was the expansion of long distance trade made it happen.
Trade started in towns and cities. Cities are consumers of goods, but not
producers. The result of the expansion of towns and cities was that you
need to have a increase production of food to fulfill the need.
Originally, you put more lands into farming. Then you look for new lands
for farming. To attract labors to the new manors, you have to make offers
to make them break this psychological bonds of belonging to a
community to come to new manors. So the new manors offer better
deals, and have less rules to attract peasants. (unlike the old manors)
These were made possible by towns—towns generate cashes. The result
of the cash economy, and the entry of money in the European society
once more started to distract the old, barter system.
The old manors had to react. The old manors started to change the
nature of the relationship between them and the peasants—landlords and
old manors began to change the nature into cash payments. Peasants
changed from ―slaves‖ into people who rent the land.
Money became the new instrument, there were more and more money
available. By the late 13th century, there was the share-cropping
economy. (Landlords rent, peasants got to share the products)
Also, all the relationship among people started to break down, there was
mobility, you could run away to the cities for work.
Those who stayed on the manor also realized their opportunities, they
could take the surplus and for the first time, sell it. It meant that even
the peasant families had access to cash.
Changes affected the landlords as well :
For the first time, the knights were usually given land for protection had
access to cash. Landlords were getting money from the peasants in stead
of food and products.
Landlords started to get access to new things, which made them become
a another kind of person. Luxury goods were now available and required.
You could now get things you have once only dreamed of with the
existence of money. Because of long distance trades—more money
produced—more money spent.
It changed the personality of the landlord/ the knights.
You had to maintain your status by keep purchasing luxury goods.
Because long distance trade and the increase of population, more and
more knights went of crusade. So when they came back, the wanted all
Basic economic structure of europe agriculture was the main way in the middle ages, it was a source of wealth, and the ownership of land was a source of status as well. The collapse of roman system results in far few population. So, there is no need to experiment diff kinds of crops, lands are abandoned, agriculture was continued in a very primitive way. Technology started to change things: the classical one field system was placed by 3 field system. Also, people found to put lime on the land, it was good. The old mediterranean plow didn"t work in the northern europe, change a metal plow was more efficient. The problem was that it was very heavy for a horse, the result was that a heavy wheel plow was invented. Also, a horse collar was invented for horses to pull the heavy wheel plow. Horses were expensive however, so ox were still the main animals for farming.