Middle Ages Economy

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Middle Age Economy

The economy mostly seen in the early middle ages was feudalism, Europe's form of government

in the Middle Ages, was developed in the fifth century to meet the changing needs of the time. It

was based heavily on the honor system. The king had overall power, then the lord, then the

vassals, or landowners, and finally down to the peasants, known then as the villeins. The fiefs, or

estates, could be rented out to one vassal who would then rent portions of the fief to three more,

and so on. Each person would give their peer a fee (called the guild) and goods in return for

protection. As an old medieval saying states, "No land without the lord, no lord without the

land." The system became outdated in the 1400s.

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Europe enjoyed an economic and

agricultural boom. A slight warming of the climate and improved agricultural techniques allowed

lands that had previously been marginal or even infertile to become fully productive. In the late

twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, however, the climate once again began to cool and

agricultural innovations could not maintain the productivity of frontier lands that again became

marginal or were abandoned entirely. The decreased agricultural output could no longer support

the same level of economic activity and, as early as the middle of the thirteenth century, the

economy was beginning to weaken. By early in the fourteenth century and continuing well into

that century, a declining population, shrinking markets, a decrease in arable land and a general

mood of pessimism were evidence of deteriorating economic conditions. This trend was far from

universal and it was certainly less severe in northern Italy. Also, north of the Alps, some

communities quickly rebounded and thrived on their commercial and...
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