The later Middle Ages was an overwhelmingly rural world, with probably three out of four households reliant upon farming for a living. Yet conventional accounts of the period rarely do justice to the variety of ways in which the land was managed and worked. The thirteen essays collected in this volume draw upon the abundant documentary evidence of the period to explore that diversity. In the process they engage with the issue of classification - without which effective generalisation is impossible - and offer a series of solutions to that particularly thorny methodological challenge. Only through systematic and objective classification is it possible to differentiate between and map different field systems, husbandry types, and land-use categories. That, in turn, makes it possible to consider and evaluate the relative roles of soils and topography, institutional structures, and commercialised market demand in shaping farm enterprise both during the period of mounting population before the Black Death and the long era of demographic decline that followed it. What emerges is an agrarian world more commercialised, differentiated, and complex than is usually appreciated, whose institutional and agronomic contours shaped the course of agricultural development for centuries to come.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Population change and the genesis of commonfields on a Norfolk manor; The extent and layout of commonfields in eastern Norfolk; The regional uniqueness of English field systems? Some evidence from eastern Norfolk; Commonfield origins - the regional dimension; Commonfield agriculture: the Andes and medieval England compared (with R.A. Godoy); Towards an agricultural geography of medieval England: review article of J. Langdon's Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation, the Use of Draught Animals in English Farming, 1066-1500; The diffusion of vetches in medieval England; Mapping the agricultural geography of medieval England (with J.P. Power); The livestock of Chaucer's reeve: fact or fiction?; Cluster analysis and the classification of medieval demesne-farming systems (with J.P. Power); Economic rent and the intensification of English agriculture, 1086-1350; The demesne-farming systems of post Black Death England: a classification (with K.C. Bartley and J.P. Power); Inquisitiones post mortem, GIS, and the creation of a land-use map of medieval England (with K.C. Bartley); Index.
’...all the articles in the collection contain valuable information and useful comments.’ Economic History Review