The Medieval Antecedents of English Agricultural Progress

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The ten essays assembled in this volume are important contributions to the present re-assessment of how the medieval 'backwardness' of English agriculture was transformed into modern 'progress'. They provide clear empirical evidence that, when and where economic, environmental, and institutional circumstances were ripe, medieval cultivators were as capable of securing high levels of land productivity as their early modern successors.

Until recently, historians tended to stress the perceived technological and ecological shortcomings of medieval agriculture. The ten essays assembled in this volume offer a contrary view. Based upon close documentary analysis of the demesne farms managed for and by lords, they show that, by 1300, in the most commercialized parts of England, production decisions were based upon relative factor costs and commodity prices. Moreover, when and where economic conditions were ripe and environmental and institutional circumstances favourable, medieval cultivators successfully secured high and ecologically sustainable levels of land productivity. They achieved this by integrating crop and livestock production into the sort of manure-intensive systems of mixed-husbandry which later underpinned the more celebrated output growth of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If medieval agriculture failed to fulfill the production potential provided by wider adoption of such systems, this is more appropriately explained by the want of the kind of market incentives that might have justified investment, innovation, and specialization on the scale that characterized the so-called 'agricultural revolution', than either the lack of appropriate agricultural technology orthe innate 'backwardness' of medieval cultivators.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780754659198
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Series: Variorum Collected Studies
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 8.82 (w) x 5.91 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction. Progressiveness and backwardness in 13th- and early 14th-century English agriculture: the verdict of recent research
Agricultural progress in medieval England: some evidence from eastern Norfolk
Arable productivity in medieval England: some evidence from Norfolk
Land, labour, livestock, and productivity trends in English seigneurial agriculture, 1208-1450
A new perspective on medieval and early mobern agriculture: 6 centuries of Norfolk farming c1250-c1850
Norfolk livestock farming 1250-1740: a comparative study of manorial accounts and probate inventories
Commercial dairy production on medieval English demesnes: the case of Norfolk
Measuring the commercialisation of seigneurial agriculture circa 1300
Matching supply to demand: crop production and disposal by English demesnes in the century of the Black Death
Constraint or constrained? changing perspectives on medieval English agriculture
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