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.
Trade and Economic Developments, 1450-1550