The Birth of Western Economy: Economic Aspects of the Dark Ages

By Robert Latouche | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
The 'Villa' of Charlemagne's Time: Farming and Manufacture

T HE Admonitio generalis published by Charlemagne in 789 contains in Section 81 a clause which calls for comment.1 It concerns the sabbath rest and gives a list of menial tasks forbidden on Sundays: men are not to engage in work on the land; they are not to tend their vines, plough the fields, gather in the harvest, make hay, plant hedges, clear forests, cut down trees, hew stones, build houses, work in the garden, attend courts or go hunting. Only three kinds of transport are allowed on feast-days: carting for the army, the carrying of food supplies and if absolutely necessary the conveying of a body to the grave. Nor are women to do any work connected with cloth: they are forbidden to cut out garments, sew them together, embroider, comb wool, crush flax, wash clothes in public, or shear sheep. The list is significant. Except for the reference to women's work, it makes no mention of artisan or industrial activities. Yet these were menial tasks, manual work which ecclesiastical law had always banned on Sundays, but the number of hands engaged in them was very small, and the authors of the Capitulary have concentrated their attention on the villa, the real 'factory' of the Carolingian age, in which men devoted themselves for the most part to agricultural work, whilst the women spun and sewed in the women's quarters.

The régime of land ownership and the organization of the great domain in Carolingian times have been the subject of innumerable studies both in France and abroad. There has been almost complete unanimity as to the predominance of the great

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1
Capitul. (ed. Boretius, I, p. 61).

-176-

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