Peasant Welfare in England

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1 Peasant Welfare in England

2 Determine Welfare Means different things in different historical periods Basic to all time periods Access to Land Income Shelter/Rents Clothing Food Taxes

3 Why Care About Peasants in 12 th and 13 th Century Because factors of peasant welfare is the same today for contemporary peasants Contemporary peasants faced with same problems of increased expenditures and limited income Strategies for increasing income are the same Contemporary peasants involved in consumer economy

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6 50 years before Black Death Very high increase in population High levels of commercial activity Wealthy peasants selling on national and international markets Rest of Peasants selling on local markets Landholding size decreases Real wages decrease

7 Peasant households Peasant household expenses increased Size and composition of household varied Cost of feeding and clothing the average person more than doubled between first decade and last decade of 13 th century Rents rose at least as much as the cost of living in the course of 13 th century

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11 Income Mean household income had to increase by the same extent if standards of living were to remain constant If mean household income appears to have remained constant or fallen, then levels of peasant welfare must have declined

12 How to assess income levels? Broad changes in household income are much more difficult to asses than in broad changes to expenditure because sources of income are both obscure and eclectic Income derived from multiple sources Cultivation, rights to common, farm animals and fishing, firewood, employment

13 Two Assumptions First, household income normally included both monetary and non-monetary contributions and that the majority of peasants derived household income from three sources: a landholding, common rights, and employment. Second, if household income is derived from a combination of landholding, employment, and common rights, then any changes in their availability ought to have impact on household income.

14 Landholding Size Many landholdings already small at beginning of 13 th century Decrease in landholding size Two-thirds of English households depended for their livelihood upon small or even miniscule holdings

15 Another Way to Think About It Failure of mean holding size to increase in the context of a general rise in household expenditure Increased population=increase size of family Increase size of family=increase expenditures

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17 Strategies Used to protect or even raise household income Increase the amount of family or hired labor a peasant might expect to raise land productivity Development anthropologist affirm the efficiency of small farms run by family labor in India where yields compare favorably with those on larger farms

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19 Reduce land in Fallow thus putting more in cultivation Strategy 2

20 Did peasants have a better chance at increasing production than manor? Three reason for supposing that peasant productivity levels could be higher Manor employed servile labor, and the work intensity of hired labor on manor could well be lower than peasant family Labor to land ratio probably higher on peasant farms Peasants enjoyed a higher ratio of draught animals to land on their farms

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22 Second Strategy Peasants can compensate for declining holding size by sowing on their land higher yield crops Barley More marketable and valuable crops such as wheat or industrial crops By growing and selling high value crops and buying cheaper grains for their own consumption peasants might increase income from landholding

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24 Third Strategy Landholding carried rights to graze animals on common fields and pastures, to glean corn and to extract timber from woodland or peat and fish from marshland Livestock contributed greatly to peasant income Acquisition of a few sheep could provide welcome income from wool a high value commodity with an international market

25 Where common rights were varied and extensive, they could have contributed a relatively large share of household income by the early 14 th century Common Rights

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27 Fourth Strategy Increase sources of household income through employment off the farm Range of occupational opportunities and the availability of waged employment increased during 13 th century Towns and Urban Centers Countryside ranged from brewing and milling to craft and industrial work

28 Importance of Markets Peasants needed to sell products to get cash Cash needed for rents, fines and taxes It is certain that the number of households which depended on waged employment, and by extension depended on the market for basic foodstuffs grew during 13 th century

29 Fifth Strategy Reduce the size of the Household to tailor expenditures to income Reduce size of household through celibacy, later marriage, sexual restraint within marriage or migration of older children to towns

30 Fate of Small Landholders Overall need to increase land productivity particularly difficult for small landholder Small holding already insufficient for income Had to use a combination of strategies Particular high reliance on use of common land to grow crops

31 Potential Liabilities Because small landholders were unable to produce sufficient food to meet their own subsistence requirements, they were adversely affected by rising cost of living Unable to grow enough grain to generate much income from sales Forced to enter the market to purchase food for their own consumption

32 Additional Liabilities Small landholders overhead costs were higher because they were charged higher rents per acre Nature of their operations restricted the benefits of increasing gross output or applying more labor

33 Alternative Labor an Answer? The ability to increase labor is greatest on family farm with surplus labor force Availability of alternative employment presented peasants with a dilemma Decide whether the potential benefits of employing their spare labor on the farm were greater than those of obtaining work elsewhere and whether the search costs of employment were sustainable

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35 Before Black Death 1348 Population Growth outstripped production High Demand For Food=High Prices Landlords Advantage Over Peasants Made it easy to apply oppressive social relations that tied the peasants to the land Famines of 1316/7 and 1321/2 due to scarcity of available food and high prices No relief for the poor

36 Black Plague So destructive that the population of Europe in 1370 was between half and two thirds of its former size For most of the next century the population of England stayed at only 2 or 3 million Dramatic impact on the balance of medieval classes with peasantry and gentry gaining much more of an upper hand

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38 Black Death Death was painful but quick Some did recover Highly contagious No medical knowledge Treated with herbs and herbal brews

39 After the Plague Low population Sudden surplus of all items and food drove prices down Rents fell giving more opportunity for peasant accumulation Take over of land very common

40 Shortages of Labor Increased peasant wealth and shortages of labor in rural areas Wealthy rural landholders found it increasingly expensive to hire rural labor Increasingly difficult to impose oppressive social tenure institutions of rural bondage Serfs and Serfdom fizzles out.

41 Rise of Servants Both rural and Urban landlords increasingly come to employ resident servants. It is cheaper to house and feed servants than to pay labor s wage in time of shortage Both men and women worked as servants for a period of 10 years before they saved enough to set-up their own holding

42 Changes in Marriage Patterns Poor married later and had fewer children per family This also contributes to the fall in population first brought out by famines and Black death Poor worked as household servants

43 Change For Landlord Landlords came to see that their best chance of continuing to profit from the land would be to lease it. This created a social place for the landless knight and gave rise to the gentry. Also closed off the commons known as enclosure and the land was leased or use by lord as pasture because wool was an important commodity

44 Political Changes Embolden now powerful poorer classes Peasant Revolts flex their political muscle disrupting the traditional stability of feudal relations Ruling class (Lords and Religious) gave way to increasing demands for popular participation Long period of political stability until early modern times

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47 Wat Tyler and His Revolting Peasants! In 1381, 35 years after the Black Death, dramatically reduced number of peasants re-evaluated their worth Demanded higher wages and better working conditions the end of serfdom Political Leaders (Bishops and Lords) passed a law to limit any such wage increase

48 New Taxes Poll tax introduces to support War in France 3 rd time in 4years that such a tax was applied Everyone over the age 15 had to pay one shilling a significant amount to a the average farm laborer Could not pay in cash, they could pay in kind such as seeds, tools etc. all of which were vital to survival of farmer and his family

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50 Incident at Fobbing May 1381, a tax collector arrives in Essex village of Fobbing to find out why the people there had not paid their poll tax Villagers throw tax collector out of village June 1381, 15 year old King Richard II sent his soldiers to Essex and Fobbing to re-establish law and order Villagers throw out the King s soldiers

51 March to London To See The King 60,000 Peasants from all over England march to London to see their king Well organized and coordinated popular uprising Destroyed tax records and registers and removed heads from several tax officials Wat Tyler to meet the King on 14 June in order to prevent further trouble in City of London

52 Wat Tyler and The King Richard II gave into all the peasant demands and asked that they go home Promised end to serfdom and feudalism may did start to leave for home While meeting taking place, a few of Tyler s rebels murder the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Treasurer of England Richard and Wat Tyler to meet the next Day

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54 Wat Tyler Murdered Richard II and Wat Tyler meet at Smithfield just outside the city walls of London Mayor of London wants Tyler and her rebels out of his city. Also angered at Tyler for arrogant behavior toward the king and Tyler s demands Lord Mayor of London Sir William Walworth wounds Tyler Tyler s head is removed

55 King s Promises Did not keep promises Promises made under threat therefore not valid under law Landlord and Bishops still controlled peasants somewhat Black Death had caused such a shortage of labor that over the next 100 years many peasants found that when they asked for more money the lords had to give in

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