HIS109Y1 - Lecture 4
Agriculture was the largest industry in the middle ages. Farming was the source of
wealth for both the peasants and the land lords.
- the ownership of land gave you status
450-750: population declined because of plague, invasions of barbarians, starvation and
the collapse of Roman empire meant no roads for trade of food.
No experimentation for types of crops or how crops were produced; agriculture
was primitive and did not develop much. Simple technological innovations like change
from 2 field to 3 field system added to the health of the population. This meant that by
planting certain crops that added nutrients to the soil, farmers would not have to leave
half of their fields open for a season to recover. Healthier people meant an increase in
the fertility rates of the population and a replenishment of the population. Another inno-
vation was the adding lyme to fields for increased nutrients.
- Old Mediterranean plow that was used in southern farming was changed for farming in
the North (developed from wood to metal). More efficient but heavier. Added wheels
(aka. heavy wheeled plows). This actually allowed more seeds to germinate so food pro-
- Horse collar was innovated but horses were expensive so most people used oxen to
pull the plows for farming
- Most peasants ate grain; very little protein. Caused malnourishment
- Noblemen ate meat (sign of status and wealth) but this abundance made them sick
Only landlords were allowed to hunt on the land (called a villa/manor). Farmers
lived in villages not single farmsteads since farming was cooperative. This style of farm-
ing made their yield more efficient.
Each self-sufficient villa contained... -> fortified house for landlord (knight); his responsibility to protect peasants, this gave
him power and respect amongst the peasants since he was the only one that could pro-
tect them from an invasion
-> some peasants were free (very few)
-> most peasants were serfs who were tied to the land. They were essentially property
who were not allowed to leave the villa
- knight was supposed to be supported by the manor. Everything he would need could
be produced on that property, by the serfs that came with the property.
- Size of Villa was determined by size of land to produce goods for how many people
lived there and the time it took to walk to the edge of the land (usually 1 day)
- The rules, justice and government was decided by the landlord who owned the villa.
Everything was localized. There was no business of trade in between the villas. This
system meant there was no need for a state because the people in the villas did not
care about outside politics. Everything was determined for them within their own land
- tradition was a great indicator of law within the villa. It was the only thing that protected
the peasants in some way from the abuse of power by higher officials
- customary traditions were unique to each village. They were not codified but passed
down through generations. These traditions and structures were the only thing that pro-
tected the peasants so they followed it (Conservative) and didn't like change.
$ was extremely scarce; nothing new was being minted.
• Worth was measured in land; land however is worthless without people to work the
• Barter economy which was based upon subsistence. No one had any extra, just
enough existed to keep everyone alive
A portion of the villa was set aside for the knight and his family. All of the peas-
ants worked the land lord’s strip of land land and everything that grew on this land was
given to the knight’s family. The knight did not work this land himself.
The villa/manor was divided into narrow strips and spread across property so one
family didn't get all the good land and one all the bad land (rough sense of justice). Ev-
ery peasant was given a strip of this land and they received the food from this strip. All
the peasants however worked each other’s lands, not just their own (cooperative farm-
ing). They only received the food from their strips however. They needed to help working all the lands because no one peasant could provide all of the materials to successfully
farm their own strip (not enough wealth).
Because of serfdom (necessary for cooperative farming; this system would not
work if peasants could leave any time they wanted) most people stayed where they were
born. Being a serf was hard but the security offered by the knight and the promise of
some level of order provided the peasants enough incentive to cooperate with the sys-
Common land (n