A Source Book for Medieval Economic History

By Roy C. Cave; Herbert H. Coulson | Go to book overview

SECTION IV
PRODUCE

Introduction

The principal characteristic of medieval economic life was the self-sufficiency of each manor or villa. There was little attempt to reach outside markets as there was little effort to produce a surplus. On the contrary, agricultural produce more often fell short of the needs of the people. The proof of this is found not only in the crude methods and implements employed, but in the references by chroniclers to the constantly recurring famines. Likewise the chroniclers tell us of the devastating plagues and numerous epidemics the effects of which were due to undernourishment as much as to the lack of medical skill. The problem of making a living was always present to the tax-burdened peasantry, the least failure in the harvest putting a severe strain on the whole economic system. Too often the serfs felt the pinch of want before the next harvest could be gathered in, and the restrictions on money-lending made the raising of capital for production next to impossible.

While the documents in this section show a wide variety of goods produced it should be borne in mind that this variety was not of one locality only. Furthermore the evidence reflects rather the condition of the larger and more prosperous estates than that of the average manor or villa. Even so, though the Commercial Revolution of the sixteenth century was to supply Europe with many commodities there was a fairly constant and reasonable variety of cereals, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, livestock, and poultry.

The last document in this section illustrates the medieval practice on the part of the lord and his household of going from manor to manor, consuming the produce as they go. As long as there was a lack of a money economy this was more or less essential. In the case of lords holding distant estates the practice seems to have been

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A Source Book for Medieval Economic History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Part I - Agriculture, Forestry, And Extractive Industries 1
  • Section I - The Barbarians 3
  • Section II - Villa and Manorial Organization 14
  • Section III - Cultivation 37
  • Section IV - Produce 56
  • Section V - Forests 70
  • Section VI - The Extractive Industries 76
  • Part II - Commerce 87
  • Section I - Trade and Exchange 89
  • Section II - Fairs and Markets 112
  • Section III - Money and Prices 126
  • Section IV - Shipping and Inland Transportation 148
  • Section V - Loans and Usury 169
  • Section VI - Partnerships 183
  • Part III - Town Economy 191
  • Section I - Towns and Gilds 193
  • Section III - Craft Gilds and Industry 234
  • Appendix - Florentine Crafts Subject to Tax 258
  • Part IV - Slavery and Serfdom 261
  • Section I - Roman Law 263
  • Section II - Barbarian and Feudal Laws 270
  • Section III - Church Councils 280
  • Part V - Wealth and Property 303
  • Section I - Forms of Wealth 305
  • Section II - Private Property 325
  • Section III - Inheritance 334
  • Part VI - Taxation 347
  • Section I - Taxes and Feudal Dues 349
  • Section II - Tithes 377
  • 8- Fine of the Abbot of Croyland To Recover His Lands 391
  • Section IV - Tolls 398
  • Glossary 423
  • Bibliography 435
  • Index 447
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