Economic structure of medieval Europe.docx

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22 Apr 2012
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Economic structure of medieval Europe
Agricultural based society
Largest generator of wealth and status of poor
Between 400 and 700 B.C. population of Europe declined
Due to disruption and disease brought by the barbarians
Sophisticated Roman system couldn’t be maintained by barbarians
No motivation for agricultural innovation; grew what was easy to cultivate and grew what you
needed
Yields not improved due to small population
Lands that were difficult to cultivate were abandoned
300yrs agriculture stagnated, progressed primitively
8th and 9th century three field crop rotation replaces the two field method
Could leave 1/3 fallow by growing crops that helps the quality of the soil
Produced more food
Disease abated and the population rose with increase in food productivity and better nutrition
Further technological innovations had massive ramifications
Introduction of wheeled plow pulled by horses- peasants became rich enough to afford livestock
Peasant diet lacked protein, while the diet of the nobility had too much
90-95% of European population was peasantry
Lived in villages b/c agriculture was a community venture
Land was organized so that people could work it in groups
All European agriculture was based on manors
A manor was a large estate, consisting of a fortified house of the landlord, house of landlords
agent and peasants village
Peasants bound to manor, if you bought the manor you bought the peasants
Peasants not free
Manor was relatively small and could not be communal
A good landlord had several manors, but separate from one another
Peasant life was entirely localized, a peasants only concerns was the manor and village he lived
on
Manor was only form of organized agriculture in medieval western Europe
Liquid capital scarce, wealth in the form of land, but useless unless you have peasants to work it
Must have compensation in the form of coinage
Manorial system allowed Europe to operate without coinage
Everything grown on the land belonged to the landlord, on top of that the peasant had to
produce a portion of his own crop to give to the landlord
Landlord paid peasants in stable work, justice and protection
Population was still small, no surplus labour market
In order for the system to operate, everyone had to be reliable, therefore peasants were tied to
the land
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