Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East

April 2007
23 line illustrations
220 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Regions and Regionalism in History
ISBN: 9781843832874
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Peasants and Production in the Medieval North-East

The Evidence from Tithes, 1270-1536

Ben Dodds

Evidence from unused sources sheds much light on the peasant economy of the later middle ages.
The peasant economy in north-east England, and indeed throughout the country as a whole, underwent many changes during the later Middle Ages, but owing to the lack of evidence it has been difficult to come to definite conclusions. This pioneering survey uses previously unexploited sources, principally from tithe data, to offer new interpretations of the patterns for change and the scope for adaptability. The author argues that the peasant economy in this region of England was profoundly affected by war in the early fourteenth century and then disease with the arrival of the Black Death in 1349, calling into question the orthodox theories of overpopulation in explaining the "crisis" of the late Middle Ages: even at its medieval peak, the population of northeast England was sparse by comparison with areas further south. Nor did the availability of land and improved living standards lead to demographic recovery in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He also shows that despite their vulnerability to crises, peasant cultivators were highly responsive to change. Far from being primitive subsistence farmers oblivious to the market and its signals, medieval peasants in the Durham region were subtle and successful decision-makers regarding the production and marketing of their output.

BEN DODDS is Lecturer in History at the University of Tallahassee.

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Table of Contents

Tithe and history
The Tyne Tees region
War and weather, 1270-1348
Pestilence, 1349-c.1440
Non-recovery, c. 1440-1536
Production strategies
Tithe buyers


Anyone working on the medieval English agrarian economy, particularly that of the northeast, will find this book a valuable contribution to the field, and one looks forward to more from this promising scholar. SPECULUM

An admirable book on a complicated subject. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

A significant contribution to current debates on the condition of the late medieval peasantry. NORTHERN HISTORY

An innovative examination of agrarian output and the market responsiveness of the peasant sector.[...]A detailed regional study of the agrarian history of North East England.[...]An excellent first book from a historian from whom we are going to be hearing more in the future. AGRICULTURAL HISTORY

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