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Manors and MarketsEconomy and Society in the Low Countries 500-1600$
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Bas van Bavel

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278664

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278664.001.0001

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Social Change in the Late Middle Ages

Social Change in the Late Middle Ages

Chapter:
(p.242) VI Social Change in the Late Middle Ages
Source:
Manors and Markets
Author(s):

Bas van Bavel

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278664.003.0006

The rise of market exchange, and the related competition, was the main dynamic force of the later Middle Ages and the motor behind social changes. This chapter shows how its force was refracted by the regional prism of power and property, resulting in a sharpening of the distinctions between regions. Some rural areas saw the rise of large tenant farmers and a multitude of pauperized wage labourers, while others saw the fragmentation of peasant holdings combined with proto‐industrialization. In the towns, which rapidly grew—in what was becoming the most urbanized part of Europe—similar differences can be observed, although less pronounced than in the countryside. Craftsmen and peasants sometimes succeeded in protecting small‐scale production and their ways of self‐determination, occasionally by extreme measures such as revolts, but gradually lost out to the growing financial power of merchant‐entrepreneurs and their Burgundian and Habsburg rulers. Moreover, growing population pressure undermined real wages, and poor relief and the actions undertaken by public authorities were hardly able to curb the negative effects on welfare.

Keywords:   transition, peasants, farmers, wage labourers, proto‐industrialization, state formation, revolts, urbanization, specialization, charity

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