HIST 371 Lecture Outline (Fall 2016 – Week 8)


Week 8: Rural Foundations



Medieval fiddle (vielle) music, played by Barry Hall (2:18 min.)

“Miri is is while sumer ilast” (Anonymous, English, c. 1225; 3:04 min.)

“Sumer is icumen in” (English, 12th-13th cent.; 1:52 min.)


Robert Bartlett, Inside the Medieval Mind: Power (Part 1 of 6) (9:58 minutes)
(start at 3:30-7:56, serfs; 7:56-end, Forest Law)

Plowing a field with oxen — Old Sturbridge Village (1:24 min.)

Christina: A Medieval Life (Michael Wood; 59:17 min.)
(4:10-14:52: the records; farming; 16:23-17:00: the village; 17:00-19:50 tax records; 22:00-23:15 women’s lives; 23:15-25:54 brewing ale)


Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, pp. 287-311 (The Physical Framework, Population, Settlement Patterns, Land Use and Agricultural Technique)

Carlin and Crouch, Lost Letters of Medieval Life, pp. 27-31 (Document 1); pp. 268-270 (Document 90)


The Angevin “Empire”:
Henry III’s territories:

Medieval England and Wales:

Wales and the Marches in the Thirteenth Century:

Map of England by Matthew Paris

Family Trees:

The Norman and Angevin/Plantagenet kings of England, 1066-1377:

The descendents of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine:

The Medieval Manor:

sketch-plan in color; another sketch-plan in color; a sketch-plan in black-and-white
plan of Wharram percy (deserted medieval village, Yorkshire East Riding); plan Wharram Percy c. 1400
aerial photograph of Wharram Percy
Photograph of the village of midlem in the Scottish Borders

Drawing of a plow (Englsih, 11th cent.)

Terms (click here for image of harvest tasks, from the Maciejowski Bible, Paris, c. 1250, fol. 17v)

Manor: estate owned by a lord (a lord could be a man, woman, child, or institution)
Village: small community, usually of peasant farmers, both free peasants and serfs or villeins (unfree peasants)
Demesne: Manorial lands reatined for the direct use of the lord (i.e., the home farm, which was not rented out)
Open fields: fields divided into multiple holdings consisting of unfenced strips (Click here to see the fields of the deserted medieval village of Southdean in the Scottish Borders.)
Manual labor services (or labor-rent): owed by serfs as all or part of their annual rent to their lord
Field: land used for growing crops (arable farming)
Pasture: land used for grazing animals (pastoral farming)
Fallow: field left uncultivated for a season, to recover its fertility
Meadow: land used for growing grass, to make hay for winter fodder
Waste: unlet, uncultivated ground, often of marginal value; sometimes available to manorial tenants for rough grazing and other uses
Assart: former woodland or wasteland converted to agricultural use
Virgate (or “yardland“): a peasant holding of 30 acres
Cotland: small holding of around 5 acres
Toft: small enclosed plot
Croft:small enclosed farmstead
Messuage or tenement: building plot, with or without buildings on it
Capital messuage: building plot containing a high-status dwelling
Gavelkind: form of partible inheritance in which peasant holdings were divided among all sons at the father’s death; used in East Anglia and Kent
Corn: British English for “grain”
3-field crop rotation:

One-third of fields planted with winter crops (wheat, rye)
One-third of fields planted with spring crops (barley, oats, peas, beans, lentils)
One-third of fields left fallow

Marling: mixing chalk or lime into heavy clay soil

Discussion questions:

What evidence is available for:
population size

What is Domesday Book, and why is it important?

What kind of crop yields were common in the early thirteenth century?

How were dates represented in documents?


Traffic: John Barleycorn (6:26 min.):


How to make hay with a scythe (9:45 min.; watch first minute only)


Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, pp. 311-317 (Food and Famine, The Manorial Economy, Rural Social Structure), 319-325 (The Size of Peasant Holdings, Freedom and Villeinage)
Carlin and Crouch, Lost Letters of Medieval Life, pp. 90-96 (Document 21), 164-175 (Documents 49-53), pp. 274-277(Document 93)

Terms and Topics:

Villein/serf/rustic/neif: unfree peasant, bound to the manor on which he or she was born and subject to: Merchet (fine paid to lord to give a daughter in marriage), tallage (arbitrary taxation), and uncertain labor services (duty to perform any task demanded on the demesne several days each week). Villeins also were forbidden to possess arms, and to sue their lords in the king’s courts
Estates steward/seneschal: a lord’s highest officer (often a knight), in charge of the administration of all the lord’s estates, including seigneurial courts
Bailiff: mid-level officer, in charge of one or more manors, and answerable to the lord’s estates steward
Reeve: free peasant or villein who served the lord as overseer or foreman of the day-to-day work of the manor; supervised by the bailiff
Compotum: financial account, often running from Michaelmas to Michaelmas


Threshing and winnnowing grain, from the Maciejowski Bible (Paris, c. 1250), fol. 18

Images from the Luttrell Psalter (English, 1325-35; British Library, Add. 42130):

Sowing and harrowing a field
Plowing with oxen
Reaping with sickles; stacking the sheaves; threshing with flails
Milking penned ewes

From the Très riches heures of John, Duke de Berry, c. 1415:
Haymaking (June)
Sowing and harrowing (October)