Aspects of the early medieval peasant economy as revealed in the polyptych of Prüm

Authored by: Yoshiki Morimoto

The Medieval World

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138848689
eBook ISBN: 9781315102511
Adobe ISBN:


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Historians for a long time viewed the economy and society of the early Middle Ages as static. The peasantry, in particular, were thought to have been not only poor but more or less immobile. Living in a self-sufficient way, they were allegedly sedentary, handing on their plots from father to son with little change. One great achievement of the socio-economic historiography of the Middle Ages – a field where enormous progress has been made in recent years – consists in the shattering of this image. Nowadays, historians are well aware that early medieval peasants, though poor, often had to journey outside their localities, sometimes going quite long distances. Medieval historians have shown, too, that peasants were in permanent contact with a money economy, often to quite a considerable extent. True, their bonds with the land they cultivated were close, but their holdings underwent changes of size from one generation to the next as the demographic configuration of their families shifted over time (Bonnassie 1990; Devroey 1993; Verhulst 1995, with further references).

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