Rural England, 1086-1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions

Rural England, 1086-1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions

Rural England, 1086-1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions

Rural England, 1086-1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions

Excerpt

This book is an attempt to describe the social and economic conditions of rural life in England during the Norman period, when the country was under the impact of an early and somewhat indeterminate form of feudalism. But its scope is limited. On the one hand, it is not concerned either with the juridical concepts that were implicit in the manifold bonds of the social complex, or with the nature and extent of the changes that occurred between the coming of the Normans and the compilation of Domesday Book. To survey everything related to my subject was impossible, and it seemed best to omit these topics because they have already received much attention from historians and in particular occupy many pages in the works of Maitland and Vinogradoff. On the other hand, matters of agricultural technique--field systems, cropping, methods of tillage, and the like--have been omitted because of the scantiness of strictly contemporary evidence. It is indeed probable that much of what is revealed in later sources was also the practice of the earlier generations to which my book is devoted; but there is no lack of wide-ranging descriptions of medieval agriculture and I preferred to confine myself to material that is demonstrably relevant to my restricted period and to shun the perils of anachronism.

To what extent the results of my researches will seem new to others I do not know. Having spent the best part of a good many years in these studies, I find it difficult to estimate the degree to which my own views have been altered by gradually increasing familiarity with my subject. I have certainly learnt that money played a larger part in agrarian affairs than I had supposed and that the farming-out of manors on stock-and-land leases was so common that this mode of estate management, which was inherited from Anglo-Saxon England, must at least rank in importance with the system of tenure by knight-service introduced by the Normans. I have also come to recognize Norman England as a land of greater local variety, and rather less- marked regional contrasts, than I had previously conceived it to be. And I have found that the peasants differed from one another in economic standing much more than I had thought.

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