Rural History 2015

Panel 6

Organizers: Mydal, Janken (1); Sapoznik, Alexandra (2)

Affiliation: 1: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden; 2: King's College London, United Kingdom

The role of technology in the expansion of the High Middle Ages

The proposed panel will focus on a new approach to agricultural change during the High Middle Ages by focusing on the contribution of the broad masses of small farmers and on identifying opportunities for intensification within the available technology.

We build upon Chayanov's principle of the consumption-labour balance, in which peasant labour is increased until household consumption needs are met, by considering the role of small-scale labour-intensive technologies in peasant agriculture.

From this theoretical basis, we consider whether there is a tendency for increased intensity, and consequently higher yields on smaller farms, where the chosen technology was well-suited to household production and which encouraged high levels of land productivity. If such a tendency was common, it will show the impact of small farmers has been an underestimated part of the great advance – and it will have consequences for production and populations estimates on a more general level.

We consider that a multiplicity of techniques prevailed which combined to create technological complexes: a cluster of interdependent techniques prevailing in a larger region. These overarching technological packages provided the framework for both manorial and the peasant technology. Yet the available methods and implements allowed for variation, and with the focus on small farmers we underline to an even greater extent the importance of “micro” technology.

The great expansion of population and total production during the High Middle Ages can therefore be seen as an advance of technological intensification. We seek evidence for this advance at a much broader base, and especially in the many small farms which prevailed across Europe during this period.

Papers raising questions about specific technical details, the use of images as source material, archaeology, or other related topics such as biological aspects (manuring), and more theoretical contributions are welcome to this panel



Chair: Tim Soens, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Paper 1: Understanding ploughing from experimental archaeology

Catarina Karlsson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Paper 2: Agricultural Intensification on Monastic Land: top-down or bottom-up? The example of Gorze, c. 900-1050

Nicolas Schroeder, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Paper 3: The work year - changes in West European peasant technology 1100-1500

Janken Myrdal, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Paper 4: Some explanations for a higher yield and more intensive production on small farms

Alexandra Sapoznik, King’s College London, UK


Suggested deadline for sending completed papers 31 july 2015

© 2014 Rural History 2015