The market, economic growth and famine in the medieval English countryside in the early fourteenth century

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Abstract

In a recent issue of this journal Bruce Campbell has suggested that England was able to avoid the kind of economic downturn experienced by Flanders and Italy in the early 14th century because its levels of engagement in international trade were far less; instead, the English economy was buoyed both by a plentiful (indeed over-plentiful) supply of labour and an internally-driven economy largely engaged in the production of raw rather than finished product. It is implicit in what he says that the famines of the early 14th century, which epitomised the crisis of this period, can have had no significant longer term impact on this general stability. In this article, I test this premise and explore the possibility that a famine of such magnitude had relatively little impact on the general pattern of English economic performance in this period. In doing so, I explore in particular the market in the medieval English economy and consider evidence for its durability even during the worst of the crisis years of the early 14th century; it
is suggested here that the persistence of marketing structures throughout the Great Famine years permitted the continuance of the kinds of trading activities described by Campbell. The main focus of the discussion will be upon the agrarian economy, the central component of the English economy in this period, and opportunity will be taken to refl ect upon and, in certain instances, to challenge recent work in this area, especially that which inclines to the view that
there was a failure of the market in this same period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-284
Number of pages14
JournalQuaestiones Medii Aevi Novae
Volume20
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2016

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