Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Peasant Economic Development within the English Manorial System

Peasant Economic Development within the English Manorial System

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Peasant Economic Development within the English Manorial System
    Book Description:

    Offering a revisionist theory that shifts the focus from labour services required by the lord to capital required by the customary tenant, Raftis reveals that "peasant economic development" and "manorial economy" are not mutually exclusive terms. Using account rolls, charters, court rolls, and lay subsidy rolls he demonstrates that lords subordinated their power to tax and to extract labour services to a policy of capital maintenance. This breakthrough allows him to develop a more rational explanation for the growth of markets and wealth in a countryside not exclusively dependent on the economy of lords.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6599-9
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)

    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-10)

      Historical research into the social and economic life of rural medieval England has shared in that explosion of specialized research and the non-ideological quality of such research that have been the characteristics of the later twentieth century. One has the impression that the unequivocal notions of productive organization anda priorivalue judgments, as to be found, for example, in nineteenth-century capitalist and Marxist theories, are on the whole being allowed to wither and to be quietly ignored. In addition, many grand concepts of “system” and “corporate organization” have simply become obsolete. There is, for example, a discernible line of...

    • 1 Capital and the Customary Tenant
      (pp. 11-27)

      Paradoxical though it may seem in the light of traditional historiography, a true economic perspective on the customary tenant must begin with the question of capital rather than labour. In this chapter we shall see that capital gave an economic status to customary tenants that received the support of the lord, since this status was deemed essential to the maintenance of the manorial system. Indeed, the demand for an adequate pool of capital would force the lord to accept wealthy tenants from beyond the manor throughout our period.

      That early, and one might properly say primitive, notion that the lord...

    • 2 The Disposition of Capital within Customary Tenant Families
      (pp. 28-46)

      It has long been an anthropological axiom that the life of the peasant is best revealed through the family. So, too, for late medieval Huntingdonshire the main access to knowledge of the villagers’ management of capital comes to us through various modes of capital management for the benefit of the family. This must not be taken to mean that the families of Huntingdonshire functioned in some fashion as one corporation or one co-operative unit. Nuclear families remained central to family structures. The frankpledge system isolated the individual as an independent and personally responsible adult. The system of primogeniture established the...

    • 3 Allocation of Customary Labour
      (pp. 47-62)

      It is the purpose of this chapter to demonstrate how labour, the third factor in the classical triumvirate responsible for the wealth of nations, was also adapted to their economic well-being by customary tenants. Again, since we have to depend so heavily upon manorial sources rather than direct evidence from the villagers themselves, the policies of the lord are more immediately available than the policies of customary tenants. But the role of tenant management in influencing the supply and demand for labour emerges clearly throughout our period.

      For a proper perspective upon labour policies of customary tenants we must begin...


    • 4 Capital Conquers
      (pp. 65-78)

      The impact of the Black Death and the recurrence of similar epidemics upon manorial estates is a well-rehearsed topic and will not be reiterated here.¹ Of interest to this study is the fact that the policies traced over the previous three chapters were not in any way “corrected,” much less reversed, following the new series of crises. Rather, these policies appear to have been accepted as normal adjustment practices. Perhaps this is not surprising for the short run, especially by the 136os, when chronic indebtedness first appears on the account rolls and manorial administrators were engaged in yearly scrambles to...

    • 5 Family Priorities
      (pp. 79-98)

      Co-operation could also be internal to the family. It has already been noted in chapter 1 and elsewhere¹ that survival was not a special privilege of the more wealthy. While many families dwindled and disappeared, it must not be expected that the future of these villages lay entirely in the hands of the more substantial local tenants whose ranks were supplemented by the entry of well-endowed outsiders. Demographic luck kept in business a good number of traditional families who were not necessarily the most wealthy in the village. Despite the long-term decline in population over the late fourteenth and throughout...

    • 6 Mobility and the Regional Economy
      (pp. 99-117)

      From all major village social classes and by every channel of social and economic activity, migration accelerated rapidly from the end of the fourteenth century. The court-roll and account-roll register of licensed and unlicensed persons leaving the five villages adds up to more than 292 individuals by the middle of the fifteenth century. As the following Analysis of Villagers Emigrating from Their Home Village indicates, this emigration spread to more than eighty-two places near and far.¹ Emigration was concentrated in towns, as London (13), or regionally, as with Ramsey (30), Huntingdon (12), St Ives (10), and Godmanchester (6). Less significant...

    • 7 Conclusion
      (pp. 118-132)

      Throughout this study every effort has been made to keep our investigations strictly within the compass of economic history. In the final analysis, this approach became possible because of the consistent pattern of the evidence. The result has been a striking reversal of traditional historiography, in that customary tenure becomes no longer a block to economic development but an instrument for such development. To say this does not in any way idealize the manorial system as a mode of economic organization. Rather, it elucidates another chapter in the history of the role of capital in economic development. Peasant progress occurred...


    • APPENDIX I Witnesses to Land Charters
      (pp. 133-140)
    • APPENDIX II Preliminary Observations towards a Calculus of Opera Obligations
      (pp. 141-147)
    • APPENDIX III The Structure of Opera Allocations
      (pp. 148-159)
    • APPENDIX IV The Tenurial Spread at Abbots Ripton, Upwood, and Wistow
      (pp. 160-198)
  7. Notes
    (pp. 199-218)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-230)
  9. Index of Villagers
    (pp. 231-238)
  10. General Index
    (pp. 239-243)