economy of England in the Middle Ages

historischer Staat

The medieval English saw their economy as comprising three groups – the clergy, who prayed; the knights, who fought; and the peasants, who worked the landtowns involved in international trade. Over the next five centuries the economy would at first grow and then suffer an acute crisis, resulting in significant political and economic change. Despite economic dislocation in urban and extraction economies, including shifts in the holders of wealth and the location of these economies, the economic output of towns and mines developed and intensified over the period. By the end of the period, England had a weak government, by later standards, overseeing an economy dominated by rented farms controlled by gentry, and a thriving community of indigenous English merchants and corporations.The 12th and 13th centuries saw a huge development of the English economy. This was partially driven by the growth in the population from around 1.5 million at the time of the creation of the Domesday Book in 1086 to between 4 and 5 million in 1300. England remained a primarily agricultural economy, with the rights of major landowners and the duties of serfs increasingly enshrined in English law. More land, much of it at the expense of the royal forests, was brought into production to feed the growing population or to produce wool for export to Europe. Many hundreds of new towns, some of them planned, sprung up across England, supporting the creation of guilds, charter fairs and other important medieval institutions. The descendants of the Jewish financiers who had first come to England with William the Conqueror played a significant role in the growing economy, along with the new Cistercian and Augustinian religious orders that came to become major players in the wool trade of the north. Mining increased in England, with the silver boom of the 12th century helping to fuel a fast-expanding currency.Economic growth began to falter by the end of the 13th century, owing to a combination of over-population, land shortages and depleted soils. The loss of life in the Great Famine of 1315–17 shook the English economy severely and population growth ceased; the first outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 then killed around half the English population, with major implications for the post-plague economy. The agricultural sector shrank, with higher wages, lower prices and shrinking profits leading to the final demise of the old demesne system and the advent of the modern farming system of cash rents for lands. The Peasants Revolt of 1381 shook the older feudal orde and limited the levels of royal taxation considerably for a century to come. The 15th century saw the growth of the English cloth industry and the establishment of a new class of international English merchant, increasingly based in London and the South-West, prospering at the expense of the older, shrinking economy of the eastern towns. These new trading systems brought about the end of many of the international fairs and the rise of the chartered company. Together with improvements in metalworking and shipbuilding, this represents the end of the medieval economy, and the beginnings of the early modern period in English economics.
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