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Trade and Economic Developments, 1450-1550

Trade and Economic Developments, 1450-1550: The Experience of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Mavis E. Mate
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Trade and Economic Developments, 1450-1550
    Book Description:

    The changes that affected the English economic landscape between 1450 and 1550 are examined here through a close study of three south-eastern counties which provide a rich variety of sources. Mavis Mate pays particular attention to the growing commercialisation of the brewing industry and its impact on women, the expansion of trade with Normandy, Brittany and the Low Countries, and the rise of trade outside the market place. Using material from the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, she finds a sharp difference between towns in their distribution of wealth, the size of their alien population and the number of men earning wages of forty shillings. Although the growth of London undoubtedly influenced the areas south of the Thames, its markets were always in competition with local markets and the need to provision Calais. Other changes included the increasing exploitation of woodland to produce fuel, wood and charcoal, and the intensive cultivation of gardens, with the growing of hemp, saffron and all kinds of fruit trees. These developments would not have been possible without changes in the customary land market that allowed gentry, the yeomen, and merchants to buy up former bond-land and build up substantial holdings. As land accumulated in new hands, the former small-holders either disappeared or held their land under different terms. Their standard of living, which had improved in the hundred years after the Black Death, dropped when wages failed to keep pace with prices. MAVIS MATE is Emerita Professor, University of Oregon.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-510-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    In 1450 south-east England, along with the rest of the country, was in the midst of a deep recession. Dependent on the production of wool for export, it was badly hit by the interruption of overseas trade. Landlords could not find lessees for their demesnes, tenant farmers reduced or eliminated their sheep flocks, rents and entry fines fell, and still land often lay unused for lack of takers. A century later, while the north of England still lay submerged in economic problems, recovery in the south-east had begun, helped by a number of interlocking factors. The growth of the Kentish...

  8. 2 The Infrastructure of Trade: Towns and Markets
    (pp. 5-22)

    As in many other parts of the country, the basic infrastructure of towns and markets in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex was well established by 1348. A string of ports along the southern and northern coasts allowed goods to be transported by sea from one place to another within the region and along the Thames to London. Cross-Channel markets were equally accessible, and raw materials and luxury items flowed into and out of the major ports. In addition the region had an excellent road system, the main framework of which, radiating from London, was inherited from the Roman period. As trade...

  9. 3 Trade within and outside the Market-Place
    (pp. 23-38)

    During the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and especially during the recession of 1440–70, a large number of the small village markets disappeared. In Surrey and Sussex trade became concentrated in urban markets, but in Kent local markets retained their importance.¹ They provided an outlet for the surplus goods of small-scale rural producers and allowed townspeople and others to buy small quantities of grain, butter, eggs, geese, capons, and other goods at reasonable prices. In addition, by 1400 every town had several permanent shops, usually on the ground floor of a house, at which butchers and bakers sold goods...

  10. 4 The Impact of London on Trade
    (pp. 39-59)

    Estimates for the population of London in 1500 vary between 50,000 and 70,000, but it is generally agreed that in parts of the metropolis it had been rising since the late fifteenth century and continued to rise for the next fifty years. Even more importantly, London by 1530 enjoyed a greater share of the national wealth and a higher concentration of people. Pamela Nightingale estimates, for example, that whereas possibly one in 66 people in England had lived in London in 1300, one in 40 probably did so in 1500.¹ Furthermore, over the period 1450–1550 London merchants captured an...

  11. 5 The Rise of Beer-Brewing
    (pp. 60-80)

    In 1450 the most common drink was ale, brewed primarily by women, many of whom were known as common or public brewers. These women brewed in much larger quantities than earlier brewsters, but were still brewing primarily within their homes. Although a few not-married women (usually widows) did support themselves by their brewing, the majority of common brewers were married women.¹ Customers took the brew away in their own jugs or consumed it on the spot, often in a cellar or basement that became an alehouse, where men could also buy food and talk with their fellows.² Over the next...

  12. 6 Overseas Trade
    (pp. 81-101)

    During the great slump of the 1440s and 1460s, overseas trade contracted: the number of broadcloths exported and the receipts from the payment of poundage fell by about 40 per cent from earlier in the century, wine imports dropped, wool prices slumped, and buyers were hard to find.¹ Kent and Sussex ports could not escape the general malaise. Furthermore, in August 1457 several thousand French troops attacked Sandwich, burning, killing, and looting. Resources that might have been invested in trade were diverted to repair the damaged walls. On the other hand, ports in both counties had long exported grain and...

  13. 7 Urban Society in the Sixteenth Century
    (pp. 102-133)

    The question whether late medieval and early modern towns were declining or prospering has long been debated, and no general pattern of growth or decay has been found.¹ The number of shrinking towns is roughly balanced by those that were expanding. It is, however, generally agreed that most towns had fewer inhabitants in the 1520s than in the 1340s before the outbreak of plague, and that a higher proportion of national taxed wealth was probably located in towns in the sixteenth century than in the fourteenth. In the south-east, in particular, towns such as Lewes, Sandwich, Rye, Kingston, and Maidstone...

  14. 8 Wage-Earners
    (pp. 134-168)

    In the mid fifteenth century wages — at least for building craftsmen — were higher than they had been before the Black Death, and food prices were generally low.¹ Real wages thus increased significantly. Wives and children were employed more frequently, and their wages swelled the family income. At the same time an active land market allowed the lowest category of villagers — the landless or cottagers with less than an acre — to acquire land or to expand their holdings.² Christopher Dyer succinctly summed up current thinking when he wrote, ‘Every change favored the wage earners.’³ None the less, the well-being of any...

  15. 9 Hinterland
    (pp. 169-192)

    Town and country lived in a symbiotic relationship, with the country supplying needed raw materials and the town in its turn providing necessary manufactured goods. If the inhabitants of the rural hinterland increased their wealth, then they might spend more on urban products and expect a greater variety of goods. By the mid sixteenth century, grocers and drapers, not just in major urban centers but in small towns like Appledore and Small Hythe, stocked wares such as white pepper, saffron, prunes, sugar, silk, and Holland cloth.¹ Conversely, if a town grew in size, then its increased demand for foodstuffs and...

  16. 10 Land Market
    (pp. 193-232)

    By 1450 personal bondage had disappeared in all but a few places in south-east England. Lords rarely tried to collect merchet and chevage or to force villeins who had left the manor to come home. In addition, tenurial obligations such as weekly labor services had been permanently commuted into money, although on some manors tenants were still expected to help bring in the harvest or carry out other seasonal works.¹ In places where tenants had been required to serve their turn as reeve or rent collector, that obligation too had often been converted into an additional money rent. Finally, tenants...

  17. 11 Conclusions
    (pp. 233-238)

    To understand how society in south-east England changed during the century 1450–1550, it is imperative to start with the depth of the recession in 1450. Agriculture, the bedrock of the medieval economy, was suffering under deflation. Land dropped out of cultivation and was soon to revert to shrub and waste, as thorns and brambles crept over former arable and pasture, and, in the Weald, the work of assarting was undone. In addition, the contraction in overseas trade, especially in the export of wool and cloth, discouraged the keeping of sheep. Tenant farmers were particularly affected, and in many places...

  18. Appendix I
    (pp. 239-242)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-256)
  20. Index
    (pp. 257-261)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 262-262)