Friday Photo: Labours of the Land

Today’s Friday Photo depicts a mural and collections in the agricultural gallery in the Science Museum of London. The cultivation of the land was the single most important activity undertaken in the mediaeval economy, and one to which the majority of the population was devoted. During the Middle Ages, several developments in farming technology–including the invention of the heavy plough and the refinement of horse harnesses–allowed farmers to increase yields. On the whole, though, farming was uniform in its basic elements throughout western Europe, and depended on the cultivation of wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Surpluses were achieved largely through the clearing of new land, an activity so prevalent that, according to historian N.J.G. Pounds, ‘the density of rural population was probably as great as at any time in Europe’s history‘ by the end of the 13th century. Although agricultural activity often passes unseen in the history books, therefore, it’s role in mediaeval–and even more broadly European–history is truly unsurpassed.

Learn More:

Pounds, N.J.G., An Economic History of Mediaeval Europe, (London, 1974), p.188.


2 thoughts on “Friday Photo: Labours of the Land

  1. There’s a second edition of Pounds’s book which gives it a much-needed update, especially where the early Middle Ages are concerned, and in that edition I think there is still no better introduction to the subject in English.

    • Good to know! It was just about the only book I could find on the subject in first year that wasn’t from 1910, but I still remember being very impressed by it. Sadly, economic history simply isn’t as sexy an item to have represented on the library shelves as the copious new volumes on terrorism, etc….

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