Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

Medieval peasants really did not work only 150 days a year.

12 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. You’re forgetting all those holidays, Tim, where the grateful boss would take all his employees on expenses-paid cruises to places like France and the Holy Land.

    All the mead you can drink.

    What happens in Crecy stays in Crecy, mind.

  2. Even if they did, it’s because they didn’t have anything productive to do with the rest of their time. Play “UnReal World” for example (Iron Age Finland simulator). Once you get a nice fishing rod you can trivially feed yourself with a few hours of not-even-work, and spend the rest of the time doing fuck-all because computer games weren’t invented. That doesn’t mean they were better off.

  3. There used to be historians who argued that there never were “peasants” in England. I suppose their point was that there were serfs, villeins, yeomen, and Lord knows what else, and that their lives were pretty different from each other.

  4. How you’re going to keep them down on the farm,
    Now that they’ve seen gay Crecy?

    (Ok, I’ll get my coat.)

    If the peasants are too poor to buy candles (they were) the working day would be about 7 hours in winter. Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France paints an even bleaker picture. Peasants almost as hibernating animals in order to conserve calories. Spring & early summer has always been starvation time for agricultural folk.

  5. “Spring & early summer has always been starvation time for agricultural folk.” We used to grow “hungry gap” kale.

  6. The Middle Ages as reckoned in England stretched from AD 300 to 1484, roughly twice as long as the subsequent period. It’s not possible to generalise meaningfully about the whole thing.

    The population of Europe fell catastrophically in the early 14th century. Conditions in 1280 were very different from 1351, when Edward III tried to turn back the clock and return labourers to their pre-plague conditions. The pieces quoted refer specifically to this time.

    The air is full of the sound of axe grinding. One of the sources wants to show that capitalism hasn’t increased leisure time, Tim would prefer to demonstrate the opposite. In truth, it’s as hard to compare the cost of goods now and at specific times in the past as it is to compare leisure.

    What’s leisure? Doing nothing like some (but not all) people do in their time off today? That’s an anachronistic view; not even those who could afford to do nothing were as idle as they might have been. Embroidery and falconry weren’t work, exactly, but they weren’t slumping in front of the telly either.

    There’s truth in both positions. It is undoubtedly possible to show that the modern worker has to work more hours to pay their annual housing costs. And no, the serious historians who started doing these sums in the 1960s weren’t just talking about service to feudal lords.

    There’s also a useful argument for the classical liberal position: the demands of a rentier state really do impose a burden on us that is in some ways unfavourably comparable to the lot of a (late) medieval freeman with his burden of tithes.

  7. @: Peter Risdon
    The Dark Ages last from the fifth century (not from AD300 – In AD306 Constantine was in York when proclaimed Emperor) until the 10th Century. The Middle Ages run from the tenth century to 1485, so only roughly equal to the subsequent period.
    I haven’t ground an axe in 20 years – in fact by now I have forgotten where the carborundum stone is – but it *is* possible to compare the price of goods now and in the past: the BoE provides inflation data going back 300 years, and the nef propagandists are being deliberately misleading when (i) they pretend cows milked themselves on Sundays and Holy Days and (ii) they equate a 12+ hour working day in mediaeval times with a 7.5 hour working day today, so I have no hesitation in coming down on Tim’s side. Also the mediaeval freeman (unlike villeins and serfs) was required to practise archery and be ready to fight.

  8. @ Interested and bif
    The English archers were yeomen – self-employed farmers, who owed no duty of labour to the local thane/lord of the manor – not villeins or serfs.
    @ bif
    Haven’t you heard “burning the candle at both ends”? It refers to peasant-class families who worked by candle-light both before dawn and after dusk. The money earned was usefully greater than the cost of the candles.

  9. John, no the term ‘Dark Ages’ in not used formally in the discipline and, when I won a university scholarship in medieval economic history in 1978*, the period under study was *exactly* as I stated.

    I fully aware that people attempt to compare prices over the centuries. It’s hard to do so *meaningfully*, as I said.

    * From which I dropped out, bored, wishing I’d stuck with maths.

  10. @ Peter Risdon
    As to what is formally used in “the discipline” – er, don’t you mean *that* discipline: I don’t think any of the subjects in which my family won university scholarships was undisciplined – I have to bow to your superior knowledge. When I had to study history (before you were born), “middle ages” was between the dark ages and “modern”. I am puzzled as to how Constantine is defined as mediaeval (I can guess *why*).


  11. John, No, I meant what I wrote.

    Yale’s very excellent course on the early middle ages, which you can take in its entirety on You Tube, dates the start of the period to the year 283 AD. Wikipedia places it a century later.

    Really, the Middle Ages being the period between Ancient and Modern, it depends when you date the end of the Roman Empire and (like terms like Iron Age) this depends on geography.

    Gibbon, as you know, took a rather longer view, as did the people of the time who viewed themselves as Roman well into the High Middle Ages, calling themselves Caesar/Kaiser and having themselves crowned Emperor in Rome.

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