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The English Peasantry

The English Peasantry

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The English Peasantry

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  1. The English Peasantry 1000-1400

  2. The Hanseatic League c. 1300

  3. Westminster AbbeyCelebrating the Cult of St. Edward the Confessor

  4. 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?

  5. ExactionsFees that peasants had to pay • Marriage – Merchet • Death – Heriot • Head Tax – Chevage • Whatever – Tallage

  6. Outlaw Legends 1066-1400

  7. 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

  8. 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?”

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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?

  13. The English Peasantry 1000-1400

  14. Peasants on Picnic in the Forest

  15. Improved ProductionMoldboard plow

  16. Draft Horse

  17. Draining swamps in East Anglia

  18. October Planting

  19. The November Slaughter

  20. February: Sitting by the Fire

  21. July Harvest

  22. August Grain Threshing

  23. Women’s work often centered around the household

  24. 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

  25. The Miller’s Wife

  26. The Baker and the Butcher

  27. ManorialJustice

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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”

  34. 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

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. 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

  38. 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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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

  42. 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