Ch 04 The Decline of Feudalism

Ch.05-The Decline of Feudalism

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CHAPTER IV: THE DECLINE OF FEUDALISM

SECTION 5:
THE BLACK DEATH

 THE BLACK DEATH IN 1348 ARRIVED TO THE SOUTH AND WEST ENGLAND TRANSFORMING VILLAGES THAT SURROUNDED A MANOR.

MASSIVE SHORTAGES OF LABOUR RESULTED IN THE REPLACEMENT OF LABOUR SERVICES (DAY WORK) AND SERFS BOUND TO THE SOIL WITH ‘QUIT’ RENTS: THESE DIFFERED FROM MODERN RENTS BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT RELATED TO THE VALUE OF THE HOLDING OF LAND BUT THE VALUE OF SERVICES THEY REPRESENTED.

NO MORE DAY OR BOON WORK, WHICH WERE SOMETIMES INITIATED BY THE LORD WHO NEEDED MONEY AND SOMETIMES BY THE VILLAGERS WHO FELT MONEY PAYMENTS LESS SERVILE AND HARSH.

CHANGES WERE MADE WITHOUT MUCH FRICTION BECAUSE THEY WERE IN THE INTERESTS OF BOTH PARTIES.

WAGE LABOUR PROVED MORE ECONOMIC THAN FORCED SERF LABOUR.

WAGE LABOUR REQUIRED LESS SUPERVISION AND ENABLED THE LORD TO EMPLOY MORE EFFICIENT BEASTS AND IMPLEMENTS INSTEAD OF THE INFERIOR ONES OF THE SERFS, AND LABOUR WAS MORE REGULAR.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE CLASS OF ‘SLAVES’ ALSO LED TO THE HIRING OF SHEPHERDS AND OTHER TYPES OF WORKERS WHO HAD TO BE EMPLOYED CONTINUOUSLY.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE MANOR WAS MODIFIED, AS THE DEPENDENCE OF THE SERF ON THE LORD BECAME LESS DIRECT.

RENT PAYING PEASANTRY CREATED A PREVIOUSLY UNKOWN CLASS, AND THE LORDS NOW HAD TO PAY FOR THE CULTIVATION OF THEIR OWN LANDS.

THE TWO CLASSES WERE NOT YET DISTINCT. EVEN THE MIDDLE CLASS OF TENANT FARMERS WAS NOT YET DEVELOPED, BUT THE STATUS OF THE SERF IMPROVED CONCEDING HIM GREATER RIGHTS.

IN 1066-1348, THE POPULATION HAD RISEN FROM LESS THAN 2 MILLION TO 3.5 MILLION. AN INCREASE THAT WAS REMARKABLE UNDER MEDIEVAL CONDITIONS AND REFLECTED THE INSECURE NATURE OF LIFE IN ENGLAND.

THE BLACK DEATH CHANGED ALL THAT.


THE VIOLENT EPIDEMIC OF BUBONIC PLAGUE CAME FROM THE EAST AND SPREAD THROUGHOUT EUROPE. THE ENGLISH OUTBREAK TOOK HOLD IN 1349 (AND IN SCOTLAND AND IRELAND IN 1350), WHICH DEVASTATED THE POPULATION.

HALF THE POPULATION DIED. SOME 1.5 MILLION PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES. THE PLAGUE AFFECT MEN MORE THAN WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

WHOLE VILLAGES WERE WIPED OUT. TWO THIRDS OF PARISH CLERGY AND HALF THE POPULATION OF LEICESTER DIED.

AGRICULTURE WAS DISORGANISED, FIELDS LEFT UNSOWN OR UNREAPED AND PRICES DOUBLED IN A SINGLE YEAR.

HIGHER WAGES WERE DEMANDED AND WON TO THE FULL PROPORTION OF THE COST OF LIVING. WORKERS DICTATED TERMS AND WON REAL WAGES.

IN 1350, PARLIAMENT WAS COMPOSED OF LANDOWNERS AND ATTEMPTED TO CHECK THIS BY ORDERING:

“EVERY PERSON ABLE IN BODY UNDER THE AGE OF 60, NOT HAVING ( WHEREWITH) TO LIVE, SHALL BE BOUND TO SERVE HIM THAT DOTH REQUIRE HIM OR ELSE COMMITTED TO GAOL, UNTIL HE FIND SURETY TO SERVE.

“IF A WORKMAN OR SERVANT DEPART FROM SERVICE BEFORE TIME, HE SHALL BE IMPRISONED.


“THE OLD WAGES AND NO MORE SHALL BE GIVEN TO SERVANTS.

“IF ANY MAN TAKE MORE WAGES THAN WERE WONT TO BE PAID, HE SHALL BE COMMITTED TO GAOL.

“VICTUALS SHALL BE SOLD AT REASONABLE PRICES.”

THE COMPLETE FAILURE OF THE STATUTE: IT WAS NECESSARY TO RE-ENACT IT REPEATEDLY FROM 1357 TO 1360, EACH TIME WITH MORE SEVERE PENALTIES.

WHEN HARVESTS WERE ROTTING IN THE FIELDS, LANDOWNERS IGNORED THEIR OWN LAWS AND MADE AGREEMENTS WITH WHATEVER LABOUR WAS AVAILABLE.

THE FAILURE WAS ADMITTED IN 1376 BY PARLIAMENT.

IF THE BLACK DEATH BROUGHT HIGHER WAGES AND GREATER FREEDOM FOR WAGE LABOURERS, IT ALSO DID SO FOR PEASANT CULTIVATORS.

CHANCES OF GETTING CAUGHT WERE SLIGHT, AND MANY RAN AWAY TO THE TOWNS OR FOUND MORE FAVOURABLE TERMS, INCLUDING EMPTY LAND HOLDINGS.

THE LORDS FOUND TWO METHODS TO COUNTER THE SITUATION THAT LED TO PROFOUND ECONOMIC CHANGES.

THEY ENCLOSED ARABLE LAND FOR SHEEP PASTURE AND MADE HUGE PROFITS FROM SELLING WOOL. SHEEP FARMING REQUIRED LESS LABOUR TO THE ACRE THAN ARABLE.

LARGE AMOUNTS OF LAND LAY EMPTY, AND THE REDUCED DEMAND FOR LABOUR HAD DISASTROUS SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES.

IN 1377, COMMISSIONERS FOR THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE TRIED TO FINE AND IMPRISON THOSE DEMANDING HIGHER WAGES.

THE LORDS TRIED TO ADDRESS THEIR DILEMMA BY INTRODUCING A NEW KIND OF TENURE – STOCK AND LAND LEASE.

HERE, THE TENANT TOOK A HOLDING FOR A CERTAIN NUMBER OF YEARS, WHILE THE LANDLORD PROVIDED THE SEED, CATTLE AND IMPLEMENTS.

IN RETURN, HE RECEIVED A RENT CALCULATED TO COVER BOTH THE VALUE OF THE LAND AND THE STOCK, AND, AT THE END OF THE LEASE, THE STOCK HAD TO BE RETURNED IN GOOD ORDER.

THIS WAS THE FORERUNNER TO MODERN TENANT FARMING.


IMPORTANT STEPS TOWARDS A CAPITALIST AGRICULTURE: TO MAKE THE LAND A FIELD FOR THE INVESTMENT OF CAPITAL FROM WHICH A REGULAR RETURN COULD BE OBTAINED.

PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS BROKE DOWN, AND IT IS HARDLY SURPRISING THAT THE BEGINNING OF A CLASS STRUGGLE ACROSS ENGLAND DEVELOPED LEADING TO THE AGRARIAN RISING OF 1381.

PEASANTS AND LABOURERS WHO HAD EXPERIENCED A TASTE OF PROSPERITY AND FREEDOM WERE NOW MENANCED BY THE LORDS’ DEMANDS.


THE LORDS, FORCED TO TAKE A SMALLER SHARE OF THE PROFIT, WERE TRYING TO RECOVER THEIR POSITION.

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