Rural Society in Early Modern times II (Steve Hindle)

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  • Rural Society in Early Modern times II (Steve Hindle)
    • Agrarian economies
      • Agrarian economy and rural social relations which they gave rise to were not uniform within and between European states
        • According to Scott
          • Many countries still used their own local and regional farming patterns
      • Variation across regions that never exercised deterministic influence over patterns of settlement, tenure or labour
        • Soil type
        • topography
        • Climate
        • Landscape partly product of human initiative
          • E.g. natural environment was made and remade when men drained marshes, cleared forests or cultivated marginal land
          • From 1550s, men forced to make war on forest and fen for three hundred years
            • According to Thirsk
      • Distinctions
        • Lowland farming
          • Mixed farming
            • cultivation of arable crops
            • fattening of cattle for milk and other dairy products
        • upland regions
          • sheep grazed to produce wool
        • Typology fails to take account of more variegated realities of rural landscape
          • certain types of environment could permit coexistence of arable cultivation, meadow and high-quality pasture
            • e.g. coastal marshes
      • More sophisticated classification of rural society into farming regions should distinguish:
        • Lowland fielden zones from upland pastoral zones
        • different types of pastoral activity  practiced in woodland or bocage, in fenland and marshes and in moorlands
          • each might be associated with distinctive agrarian order
      • farming could be practised on open fields
        • Usually across three or four common fields
        • tenants held strips of land in scattered parcels
        • Tenants obeyed common rules of cultivation stipulated by manorial courts in which they themselves had active voice.
        • Might increasingly be undertaken in severalty, that in on land enclosed by hedges and ditches over which landlord exercised absolute rights in property and where tenants had lost traditional customary privileges of grazing livestock or collecting fuel
          • Even pasture could be held individually
          • various combinations of topography and farming systems might give rise to:
            • Differentiated patterns of settlement and architecture, nucleated villages being much more characteristic of those lowland regions where common field agriculture was still practiced
              • scattered settlements being much more likely to spring up at margins of wood-pasture zones where sheep were reared and their wool knitted for textiles
      • Would be  mistake to think in terms of random scattering of autonomous farming region both within and cross states
        • Local agrarian economies were gradually becoming integrated by processes of specialisation and interdependence into:
          • regional, national and ultimately international markets for food and consumer goods
      • Late 17thC, regional, national and international trade facilitated market penetration into humblest households
        • and the exchange of agricultural goods and services was no longer exclusively local
          • Even in late 16thC a corn-deficient area like north-east of England was importing grain from:
            • granaries of East Anglia
            • ports of Baltic and agricultural hinterlands which they served
          • Citizens of Newcastle owed their bread as much to Danzig as they did to King's Lynn
      • By end of period, there was no single European market for agricultural goods, but series of regional markets in which very large scale operations were possible
    • Rural social relations
      • Involvement in the market-place varied geographically and socially
      • Landowning class
        • Not consistent in its characteristics across Europe
        • aristocracy of Eastern Europe
          • Long enjoyed feudal privileges which their western cousins had begun to lose
        • Greater and lesser nobilities throughout Europe expressed social power
          • Whether it had been achieved by military glory, bureaucratic service, economic success or inheritance, in their ownership of land
        • Nobility and gentility might be achieved, earned or inherited
          • it was instantly recognisable in lifestyles of landlords, men of leisure who seldom farmed their own estates but derived their income from rent
        • Dewald argues:
          • Landed classes created roles for themselves through:
            • Dress
            • Diet
            • Education
            • had their status recognised by rulers who came to depend on them for holding of local office and exercise of royal authority
        • Easily recognised by one another
      • tenants
        • Many, especially in North-western Europe
          • Could no longer be described as peasants in sense of basic subsistence farmers
        • According to Scott
          • Particularly in east
          • more recent definition as family-based agriculturists with limited market involvement seems appropriate
        • Peasants
          • a technical term (without condescending or sentimentalising associations)
          • inhabitants of rural world in which force of custom was central
        • Country dwellers idealising past
          • As lost world of honest plain dealing
          • As a normative agrarian order in which resources were equitably allocated
          • Did so in order to preserve such tradition for future generations
          • tenants were no less concerned than landlords for perpetuating their lifestyle for posterity
      • According to Whittle
        • Fortunes of tenants depended on:
          • Nature of their tenures
          • terms on which they held their land
          • Size of farms they occupied
        • Important to recognise variations in proportion of tenants who were owner-occupiers
          • Often seen as characteristic of peasant class in pre-industrial society
            • as few as 25% of English farmers were owner-occupiers, and rest were tenants of either individual or institutional landlords
      • Those who held land on customary terms
        • lex loci
          • law of locality
          • Could vary enormously even within a particular region
            • within customary economies, landlords and tenants might enjoy various privileges
            • would be usually guaranteed a local manorial court in which tenants enjoyed significant  rights and responsibilities
        • Most customary tenants were descendents of serfs
          • generally freed earlier in west than in the east
          • Two types
            • tenants-at-will
              • most characteristic of more traditional agrarian regimes east of Elbe
              • held land only at lord's pleasure for specified period for specified rent
                • Usually payable as labour service
              • According to Hagen
            • those who enjoyed rights guaranteed by local custom
              • Negotiated over many centuries
              • More characteristic of west and England
              • enjoyed varying degrees of security
                • Might enjoy a right of inheritance or hold farm for specified number of years or lives
                • Might enjoy fixed or negotiable rents
                • Might gain access to their holding by payment of fixed customary fee or fine
          • customary tenures were characteristic product of an economic context in which relatively low prices and high demand for labour encouraged landlords to offer sympathetic terms to their tenants in hope of retaining a supply of labour and a regular if nominal income
      • Changing economic context of mid 16thC
        • Labour surplus and rising prices
          • Encouraged many landlords to be more demanding of their tenants in order to maximise their incomes
            • hence tendency, most marked in Western Europe, towards commercialisation of land market
              • According to Whittle
      • By end of 16thC.
        • Most leasehold land was so expensive that only very substantial farmers could afford to purchase it
          • With the result that most small leaseholders were often bought out by their larger neighbours and were increasingly forced out of land market altogether
      • By early 18thC
        • English land market, most commercialised in Europe
          • was characterised by very significant proportion of labourers who occupied cottages without gardens, let alone access to more substantial plots
          • made a living dependent only on their ability to sell their labour as the annual hiring fair
      • farm size
        • actual amount of land cultivated by an individual farmer might vary enormously
        • Larger farms emerged as marked shortage of tenants caused by demographic contraction of late Middle Age made more tenancies available for those who were producing sufficient surplus to buy them
        • Land gradually accumulated into fewer hands
          • Taken over by enterprising peasants
        • By end of 16th C
          • Western Europe in particular had seen emergence of highly differentiated rural population
          • though of course the extent of this differentiation varied and was probably far greater in lowland arable than in upland pastoral regions

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