The English Peasantry 1000-1400
Review Economic Relations High Middle Ages • What was the likely impact of economic growth during the High Middle Ages? • What was the source of most wealth? • How was wealth transferred from peasants to lords? • What were peasants supposed to receive in return for these payments?
ExactionsFees that peasants had to pay • Marriage – Merchet • Death – Heriot • Head Tax – Chevage • Whatever – Tallage
Outlaw Legends 1066-1400
Timeline of Outlaws • Hereward the Wake: 1060s and 1070s • Fulk Fitzwarin: early 1200s • Eustace the Monk: early 1200s • William Wallace late 1290s and early 1300s • Gamelyn: not historical • Robin: not verifiably historical, probably late 1200s but no definite sign of the legend until 1377
Discuss Outlaw Legends • What was an outlaw? • Contrast outlaw legends with chivalric literature. • Where the heroes lived • The descriptions of violence • The definition of virtue and honor • Why did Arthur and Robin Hood belong “to opposite poles of society?” • What do you think the legends mean by Robin Hood’s “good yeomanry?”
Discuss Outlaw Legends • What is the historical value of popular legends? • What did Keen mean when he referred to “the infinite credulity of the middle ages?” • Was “class violence” “the most striking feature” of the outlaw legends?
What does Keen mean when he states that Robin Hood was a “full blooded medieval brigand?” • That the original Robin of legend was often ruthless. • That the original Robin of legend had no followers. • That the original Robin of legend was not actually a hero. • That the original Robin of legend was not a champion of the common people.
How does Keen depict the High and Late Middle Ages? • As a violent period with weak government • As very conservative in terms of attitudes toward social hierarchy • As having great respect for the law • As a period about which we know very little • All of the above
Discuss Hereward the Wake • What are the rough outlines of the story and the history? • How does the quality of the Hereward story change, according to Keen? • What sources confirm his historicity? • How did Hereward overcome his social status to become a popular hero? • Who was his primary enemy?
The English Peasantry 1000-1400
Women used distaffs (often much larger than the ones pictured at left) to create thread from wool • Bridegrooms often gave a distaff as a symbolic present to their wife around the time of marriage • The distaff was a symbol for women throughout Europe
Why does Keen emphasize the violence of outlaws, such as Gamelyn and Much the Miller? • To contrast them to the less violent actions of Robin • To contrast them to the chivalric heroes and to emphasize the class based anger that they represent • To liken them to war heroes • To indicate that medieval people seemed to revel in violent acts against the injust
How does Keen depict the Robin Hood of the medieval ballads? • As a desperate medieval brigand • As a courteous knight, bent on adventure • As a pagan magician who attracted sprites and fairies • As a hopeless romantic who could do nothing without Marion
What s the earliest known unambiguous reference to “Rymes of Robin Hood?” • An account of two outlaw bands, the Folvilles and Coterels, from the 1330s • Piers Plowman, a poem from 1377, references a priest who knew Rhymes of Robin Hood • A 1250 coroner’s inquest performed under the direction of the Sheriff of Nottingham • A 1330 letter found in the jacket of an outlaw whom the authorities hung for violence against men of law
Description of the Peasantry • The peasantry constituted approximately 90% of the population of Europe between 500 and 1500 • The word peasant derive from the French paysan, which literally means country dweller • Definition: The peasantry is that portion of society that possesses (not necessarily owns) the principal means of agricultural production, such as plows, land, seeds, etc… • During the early medieval period the peasantry was fairly uniform in terms of landholdings and wealth; by 1200 these characteristics of the peasantry varied significantly as a consequence of increasing commercial activity
Economic Strata of Peasant Society • The village elite – the wealthiest ten percent of village society often held the principal offices of the village government, such as the reeve; by 1500 this strata of village society would become yeomen farmers, men you often leased large tracts of land from lords and produced for the market • Virgaters – this middle 40% of the peasantry held between 15 and 30 acres; a virgate or “yardland” was approximately 30 acres • Cottars – 50% of the peasantry; day laborers who held little land other than the garden or croft immediately surrounding their house
Serfdom • Serfdom was a form of land tenure that also indicated a legal status • By 1200 it was common for a peasant to hold some land by copyhold or servile tenure (as a serf) and hold other land by freehold tenure (as a free man) • Peasants who only held land by copyhold tenure tended to be poorer, but some serfs accumulated fairly large landholdings; therefore, it is more accurate to think of serfdom as a legal rather than an economic condition attached to land rather than individuals • Nevertheless contemporaries often called those who held land through copyhold tenure as “serfs”, “villeins”, or “bondmen”
Serfdom • Serfdom implied an abridgement of one’s legal rights • Serfs were usually not allowed to sell their land or move • Serfs were not allowed to enter into contracts • Serfs were subjects to the legal authority of their lord who could impose various taxes and levies for marriage, childbirth, death • Peasants often used the established customs of the manor to counter the grasping claims of lords • By 1400 serfdom is extremely rare in most of western Europe; by contrast it became increasingly common in Eastern Europe between 1400 and 1700
Three-Field System • A form of crop rotation that gradually spread across Europe between 1000 and 1300; often producing yields of 4:1, it was significantly more efficient than the earlier two-field system, which usually produced yields of 2:1 • Fields were divided into three areas and rotated according to the following schema • Fall planting: grains, usually wheat or rye • Spring planting: legumes, oats, barley, vetch • Fallow: nothing planted and often left for cattle to graze and drop manure
The Moldboard Plow • Slavic origins • Adopted between 550 and 1000 • for thick Northern soil • heavy • wheels • requires up to 8 oxen • strip planting • increased expense and cooperation
Family Life • Throughout most of the Middle Ages European peasants faced extremely difficult circumstances even in the best of times; consequently economic forces strongly encouraged men and women to marry by their early twenties; the average age of marriage increased to the late twenties during the century following the Black Death (1350-1450) • Only 1/3 off all children born into the peasantry survived past age 10; approximately ½ of those who died in childhood never made it past age 1 • Poor nutrition, dangerous and unsanitary living conditions, and lack of adult supervision accounted for many of these deaths
Work Patterns • Peasant men and women worked long hours in order to make ends meet • Women’s work tended to encompass numerous activities around the household, such as brewing, baking, weaving, gardening, cleaning, cooking, fetching water, child rearing, and education • By contrast, men tended to work away from the house either in the field or in their village shop if they worked a craft, such as blacksmithing • At harvest time, men, women, and children worked together to gather the grain, which was vital for survival
Communitas Villae: Village Community • Shared customs, beliefs, practices • Religion often combined pagan and Christian practices to ensure the fertility of the fields • peasant customs & agriculture • plowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, pasturing, assarting • unanimous consent was often required for any decision • Consequently peasants were resistant to change • conservative
Manors • Manors were administrative units of land held by lords; some manors spanned multiple villages • Prior to 1300 peasants usually owed labor services to lords in exchange for the land that they worked • Increasingly after 1200 rents replaced labor services as a method of holding land; this shift was vital for the transformation away from serfdom
Manorial Institutions • Manor house • begins as fortified villa • evolves into crenellated castle • Mill house • watermills 600 CE • wind mills 1100 CE • Bakery • Village Green • Curia
Estate Administration • Tax collection • Rent collection • Law and order • Manorial Officers • steward/seneschal/major domo/mayor • bailiff: on site, semi-literate, accountant, deputy to the steward, man of the lord • reeve: on site, prosperous, rent collector, strongman, leader of village society