The Role of Agriculture in the Middle Ages
In the middle ages the peasants of the manor labored in the fields and produced the crops. They had a system that worked for them, but it was not sufficient enough and they needed to find a way to produce more crops more efficiently. They used a system call the open field system which allowed a number of households to work on a single field. They did not fence in the property which allowed each family to take turns working the field. Around 1000A.D. they started looking for innovations to improve their agriculture. They used a two field system that only allowed them one half of the land to use per year. Which left the other half of the land lay dormant to allow the nutrients to return to its soil. They used a style of plowing called criss-cross double field plowing. Eventually they came up with three major innovations which would change their production and provide much more efficient ways of producing crops throughout their fields.
The three innovations that were used started with the three field system. The next would be the mold board plow. Finally the horse collar would be introduced. These three things would drastically improve the economy. They gained efficiency from the land with the three field system. The mold board plow would prove to be a much easier way to churn the soil and turn the nutrients. Then the horse collar would make production much quicker due to the combination of the horses' strength and speed.
With the two field system that the peasants used they had problems keeping the soil fertile enough to provide a sufficient supply of crops. "Soil exhaustion was a constant problem, and the peasants were usually engaged in the laborious process of clearing new land to supplement their old, worn-out fields" (Nelson). They needed to come up with a better way to produce the crops and keep all of the available land in good use. This is when the innovation of the three field system came...
Bibliography: Landon, Dale E. "Technological Innovation." Western Civilization to 1600. 15 November 2006. http://idcs0100.lib.iup.edu/WestCivI/technological_innovations.htm.
Nelson, Harry Lynn. "The Peasants: Advances in Agricultural Technology, 800 – 1000." Lectures in Medieval History. 15 November 16, 2006. http://www.vlib.us/medieval/lectures/peasants.html.
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