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The mobilization of labour in the milling industry of thirteenth- and early fourteenth century England.




The relationship between land and labour in medieval England has traditionally been set in terms of priorities. In a predominantly agricultural society, the much preferred option -- for all ranks of society -- was to won (or have some sort of proprietorial control over) land. Those with limited access to land -- whether through poverty, eviction, the vagaries of inheritance customs, or population pressure -- have traditionally been seen as being very disadvantaged. In such a context, selling one's labour's was very much a second-rate option.(1)

This pessimistic view of labour has strongly influenced various hypotheses about the medieval economy and society. One long-standing notion has been to look at medieval labour strictly as a means of exploitation, often primarily from the point of view of money rents or labour services.(2) Perhaps even more prominent and insidiously pessimistic is the examination of such labour from a functionalist perspective, its ability to satisfy the basic subsistence and other wants of people.(3) This has been the focus of a great deal of work on the standard of living question, the emphasis on "real wage" movements and so forth.(4) It was in this direction that David Farmer's work was so important and did so much to improve our view of the fortunes of medieval people at various times during the middle ages.(5) Such an approach, however, presupposes that the overwhelming concern of medieval people was to keep themselves fed, and when standard-of-living calculations are made wages are generally measured against food.(6) It all serves to perpetuate the notion that wage labour in particular was primarily geared to satisfying the shortfall between land availability and subsistence.

Yet, important as all this work has been, it has failed to do justice to many aspects of medieval labour: its variety, its flexibility, and its redistributive powers. There is much to point to in the medieval economy that indicates the power and pervasiveness of wage labour. The growing urban element in medieval England, particularly up to the end of the thirteenth century, presupposes large pools of wage labour, as does the developing industrial sector of the time. Wage levels for much of this labour must have looked very attractive, particularly for craftsmen, whose earning were considerably above those for less skilled labour.(7), Secondly, although there are some famous statements to the contrary,(8) levels of investment in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries in particular kept employment prospects relatively high, particularly in building projects.(9) The impact of this economic expansion upon the demand for labour must have been substantial.

Yet the notion stubbornly persists that the migration of labour to support the growth of towns and new industry in the preplague period was largely comprised of those whose prospects (primarily in terms of land) were virtually non-existent at home: that is, the impulse here was one of "push" from an over-populated countryside rather than "pull" to urban centres or new industries.(10) As such, it downplays the employment attractions of towns and especially new industries. It is the purpose of this article, by using the milling industry as a case study, to show how the opportunities for alternative occupations to fanning grew in the thirteenth century. It will also show the negative, how this growth made labourers more vulnerable. In this vein, it will argue that the crisis in the early fourteenth century ought perhaps to be considered as much in terms of recession -- that is, a crisis in investment and labour opportunity -- as in subsistence.


In many ways, the milling industry is ideal to study for this purpose. Huge amounts of documentation survive about the activity, thanks to the interest showed in it by medieval lords, who saw milling as a potent source of revenues. Also, it is an industry that crossed many boundaries in medieval society, mixing agriculture and industry, town and country. It needed a broad range of labour skills and types. Finally, for an initial foray, it is manageable as a study. We are now getting to know quite clearly the extent and boundaries of milling -- for example, that there were 10,000-15,000 water-mills and windmills in England c. 1300 and that revenues for the industry at this time were probably in the range of 30,000-45,0000 [pounds sterling] per year.(11) It is not without its limitations as a study, however. In terms of investment, it tended to be elitist, being largely controlled by lords.(12) Also, as we shall see, apart from being customers,(13) women tended to play a relatively minor role, certainly in those sectors dominated by water- and windmills.(14) Indeed, one could argue that the milling industry is something of an oddity, so that some other industry, even agriculture, might have been better object of study. Nevertheless, the ability of the industry to generate records of particular usefulness for the analysis of labour strongly outweighs these limitations. At the very least, the analysis might provide a prototype for studies of other industries.

The plan is to examine the labour requirements of the milling industry, considering in turn the original construction of mills and then the labour involved in normal operating conditions, including the labour embodied in purchased items like millstones. The study is based upon a selection of examples, where information from manorial accounts in particular is rich. Finally, an estimate of the total labour for the milling industry will be attempted, with some comment upon the implications that this has for the analysis of wage labour and its fortunes as a whole in medieval England, especially in the period immediately before the plague.


We will start at the point at which milling would make the most noticeable impact upon a community: that is, when a mill was first built. The building of a new mill from scratch was a relatively unusual event, which not only created a considerable stir of interest in the community but also developed ample -- if temporary -- employment opportunities. The building of completely new water-mill sites was becoming increasingly rare as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries wore on, but this was a boom period for constructing windmills., from their introduction in the late twelfth century to the beginning of the fourteenth century new windmills probably numbered around four thousand.(15) At this rate, on average, something like thirty would have been built each year in England from 1185 (the earliest certain dating of a windmill in the country) to, say, 1315.

The opportunities for finding work on these new constructions, at least occasionally, was probably very good. A study of some of these constructions during the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries can also give us a sense of how the use of labour for the development of milling changed during the century. We can start here fairly early in the century with the dual construction of a water corn mill and a fulling mill on the royal manor of Marlborough, Wiltshire, in 1237-38. Expenses for these two constructions can be divided into labour used directly on the site and labour embodied in the materials that had to be bought from further away. The breakdown for both mills is shown in Table 1. Although the account stated that the corn mill was built "from new" (de novo), it is likely that a previous water-mill had already been in place, and so costs were not as large as they might have been at a virgin site. On the other hand, the fulling mill does appear to have been built from scratch and so its costs outweighed those for the corn mill.

Table 1 Marlborough (Wilts) Corn- and Fulling-mill Construction Costs 1237-38

 Corn-mill Fulling-mill

 Percentage Percentage
Type of Cost d. of Total Costs d. of Total Costs
a) Labour
 Carpenters 960 26.3 1250 28.7
 Wood Cutters 12 0.3 34.50 0.8
 Roofers, etc. 77.5 2.1 338.50 7.8
Smiths 32 0.9 39.75 0.9
Transporters 668 18.3 990 22.7
Manual Labourers 638.5 17.5 1510 34.6
Others -- -- -- --

Total Labour 2388 65.4 4162.75 95.4

b) Materials
Millstones 1194 32.7 -- --
Metals: Iron 31.5 0.9 7.75 0.2
 Brass -- -- -- --
 Steel, etc -- -- -- --
Wood -- -- 9 0.2
Canvas -- -- -- --
Others 40 1.1 182 4.2

Total Material 1265.5 34.7 198.75 4.6

Grand Total 3653.5 100.1 4361.50 100.0

Source: Accounts for Works on the Royal Mills and Castle at Malborough 1237-38 and 1238-39, ed. Sheila Challenger (Witshire Record Society, xii, Devizes, 1956)

In the case of these particular mill constructions, immediate labour costs clearly dominated those for materials. In the fulling mill only 4.6 per cent of the total construction costs involved purchased materials, while, outside the millstones, only 2 per cent of the total costs for the corn mill involved such materials. The almost complete absence of bought wood shows how strongly the construction depended upon royal reserves of woodland, probably from Savernake or Chippenham Forest.(16) This exploitation of royal timber reserves involved heavy transport costs, which comprised 18 per cent of the total costs for the corn mill and 22 per cent for the fulling mill. But the heaviest labour costs involved carpentry and other wood-related activities, which comprised 29 per cent of total costs for the corn mill and 37 per cent for the fulling mill. Relatively unskilled, manual labour, involved mostly with digging work on the dam and other water control systems, was also significant, being nearly 27 per cent of total costs for the corn mill and nearly 35 per cent for the fulling mill. In contrast and somewhat surprisingly, smithing costs for both mills were minimal; perhaps some of these were subsumed in the other costs, although this is not indicated in the accounts.

Overall, however, the construction of the two mills gave significant employment opportunities for labourers in the region. And these were not only for men; ten women were also employed, although only as "assistants" at a very low wage of around 1d. per day. Altogether, over 27 [pounds sterling] was spent on labour for constructing the two mills. Since, even for craftsmen at the end of the century, annual earnings rarely exceeded 4-5 [pounds sterling] per year, while for labourers it would probably be around 1.5-2 [pounds sterling] year,(17) this represented the equivalent of a significant number of yearly wages for people in the neighborhood. Considering the mix of labour used in the construction of the two mills, it seems likely that the equivalent of at least ten yearly wages was involved.(18) In contrast, the amount of labour embodied in the purchased materials was much less. Only in the case of the two millstones for the corn mill was the amount significant at just under 5 [pounds sterling]. But here much of the value of this input seemingly escaped to areas very far away indeed. Given the price of the millstones (and judging from David Farmer's work on this subject), it is very likely that they were foreign stones, probably from France,(18) so that the labour benefits would not be felt very much locally.

When we turn to the construction of water-mills in the second half of the thirteenth century, we see a similar situation. Table 2 shows the breakdown for the construction of an allegedly new water-mill at West Farleigh in Kent, a manor of Canterbury Cathedral Priory. This was a more modest affair than the building of the Marlborough mills, but,it still commanded a local labour requirement of nearly 15 [pounds sterling], probably in excess of five yearly wages.(20) Again wood-oriented work, such as carpentry, dominated at 39 per cent of total costs. Transport was much more modest at 7 per cent, while manual labour on the mill's water supply system was around 21-22 per cent, again lower than m the Marlborough case. Proportionally, smithing showed the greatest increase, but was still relatively small in absolute terms at just under 5 per cent. Apart from the milestones, again seemingly supplied from abroad, outside material costs were still very modest, at just over 3 per cent, although rising a little in comparison to the Marlborough example. In short, the labour breakdown in the West Farleigh case still largely adhered very much to the Marlborough pattern.

Table 2 West Farleigh (Kent) Water-mill Construction Costs, 1268-69
Type of Cost d. of Total Costs

a) Labour
 Carpenters 1608 32.9
 Wood Cutters 228 4.7
 Roofers, etc. 68.25 1.4
Smiths 233.25 4.8
Transporters 344 7.0
Manual Labourers 1056.5 21.6
Others 36 0.7

Total Labour 3574 73.1

b) Materials
Millstones 1080 22.1
 Iron 85.5 1.7
 Brass 107 2.2
 Steel -- --
Wood 9.5 0.2
Canvas -- --
Others 38 0.8

Total Materials 1320 27.0

GRAND TOTAL 4894 100.1

Source: Canterbury Cathedral Archives DCc, West Farleigh 1

In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, examples of the building of new water-mills become harder to find, but are compensated for by the increasing frequency of accounts for the construction of windmills. Table 3 contains the breakdown of costs for the windmills built at Turweston, Buckinghamshire, in 1303 and at Walton, Somerset, in 1342. Again, as in the case of the water-mills, carpenters, wages figured strongly., at Walton they comprised 47 per cent of all costs. They were somewhat less at Turweston, wood-working costs here being only around 29 per cent, but this was largely a result of the master carpenter's wages not being included in the account. (It seems that he was on more or less permanent employment with the Abbey, so his wages were probably recorded elsewhere.(21)) Transport was again relatively low, being only 5 per cent in the case of Turweston and non-existent at Walton. Overall labour expenses were much lower than for water-mills, but they were also slanted towards more skilled labour. The substantial amounts of unskilled labour needed for the dam-works on water-mills were largely missing in the case of windmills, the only equivalent being the lesser amounts of labour required to build up the mounds around the base of the windmills. Altogether, wood-workers and smiths comprised over 80 per cent of the labour costs for the Turweston mill and nearly all of the costs for the mills at Walton. In any case, the total labour requirement for the Turweston mill, even without the master carpenters, wages, was just over 11 [pounds sterling] while the Walton labour bill was more modest at a little over 6 [pounds sterling]. Even considering the high component of skilled labour in both these constructions, it is likely that the Turweston mill labour costs comprised at least three yearly wages, while that for Walton was probably somewhere between one and two.

Table 3 Turweston and Walton Windmill Construction Costs
 Turweston, Bucks Walton, Somerset
 1303 1342

 Percentage Percentage
Type of Cost d. of Total Costs d. of Total

a) Labour
 Carpenters 714 14.7 1343 47.0
 Wood Cutters 113 2.3 2 0.1
 Roofers, etc. 580 11.9 -- --
Smiths 378.5 7.8 154 5.4
Transporters 230 4.7 -- --
Manual Labourers 467.5 9.6 -- --
Others 179.5 3.7 30 2.0

Total Labour 2662.5 54.7 1529 53.5

b) Materials
Millstones 771 15.8 324 11.3
Metals: Iron 232.5 4.8 365 12.8
 Brass 355.75 7.3 -- --
 Steel, etc. 301.25* 6.2 20 0.7
Wood 258.5 5.3 542 19.0
Canvas 171 3.5 75 2.6
Others 121 2.5 -- --

Total Materials 2211 45.4 1326 46.4

GRAND TOTAL 4873.5 100.1 2855 99.9

* Includes costs for lead for guttering and for stones for making a circular path around the mill, along which ran a small wheel fastened to the tail-tree, so that the mill could be turned more easily into the wind. Sources: John Langdon, "The Birth and Demise of a Medieval Windmill," History of Technology, xiv (1991); Ian Keil, "Building a Post Windmill in 1342," Transactions of the Newcomen Society, xxxiv ((1962-3)

Another major difference between the costs for these two windmills and the water-mills considered above was the heavy expenditure in outside material costs, in both cases around 45-50 per cent of the total construction costs. Millstones again played a significant parts in these outside material costs, over 15 per cent of total costs in the case of Turweston and over 10 per cent in the case of Walton, But even when these are excluded, material costs were still high. Iron, brass, steel, wood, canvas, even grease, figured as items that had to be obtained outside manorial or estate resources. These extra costs comprised 30 per cent of the total construction costs for the Turweston mill and 35 per cent in the Walton case. These outside materials were presumably bought largely at local markets, although only in the case of millstones does one get a definite clue for this, as in the case of the millstones for Walton, one of which was bought at Bridgwater -- about ten miles away.((22) By the time these windmills were built in the early fourteenth century, there is a sense that manufactured materials in particular could be obtained much more easily. These included nails, bolts, staples, locks, keys, hinges and hooks made of iron; bearings and wheels made of brass; dressed boards, chests and toll-dishes made of wood; straw bushel baskets; canvas; and many other Items. All figured in the construction of the windmills and reflect the growing availability of such commodities through the market.(23)


Once a mill was established, its labour profile changed significantly. For one thing, the mills required millers whose status or position, however, could vary widely. Millers could simply be hired servants, or they could be proprietors in their own right,leasing the mill or even having possession of it in customary or freehold tenure -- in either case having considerable independence.

We have a much better sense of the miller when he was being hired by the lord, since his wages and other details would then appear more frequently in manorial records. In these cases, the millers were no better than manorial servants, and it is striking how little they earned. Cash wages were seldom greater than 5s. per year.(24) Indeed, the major proportion of their earnings came in the shape of grain liveries -- that is, payments in grain. In the case of the Turweston windmill during the period indicated in Table 5, the Miller's normal cash wage of 5s. per year was augmented by 34 1/2 bushels, half of wheat and half mixed grains. In a typical year, with grain prices 5s. or above per quarter,(25) this would push the miller's equivalent cash wage to well over a pound sterling per year. This, however, was far from pricely, and was often considerably less. For example, Miller for the windmill at Oakham, Rutland (Table 5), was only paid 3s. and little more than bushels per year of various grains. The job here had a distinctly part-time feel to it. On the other hand, larger mills right require a helper or even two millers.(26)

The lowly economic status of these hired millers is very much at odds with the prosperous image of millers as portrayed in The Canterbury Tales or other sources. It appears that this popular image applied more to millers who leased mills or held them more or less independently in hereditary tenure. In such cases, presumably it was felt that a living was possible. However, it was not always as easy as this, since, even before the plague, the records often refer to the difficulties faced by mill lessees in making enough to meet their rent.(27) On the other hand, miller-lessees were notorious for being unscrupulous and entrepreneurial and were certainly recognized as a fairly affluent occupational group right through the middle ages.(28)

Outside of operating personnel, mills needed a steady programme of maintenance that also provided frequent labour opportunities. The water-mill complex at Feering in Essex, belonging to Westminster Abbey and comprising two separate sets of millstones, probably under one roof,(29) provides a excellent example of a milling establishment running routinely over a long period of time. The run of accounts for the manor, in which the mill operation is recorded, is particularly fine; indeed, from 1291-92 to 1304-5 the accounts run without a break for a period of fourteen years. The repair costs for this period are contained in Table 4. The ability of the Feering mills to provide labour opportunities is abundantly clear from the figures. The wages for workers in wood comprised 35 per cent of total cost followed by the wages of the labourers who worked on the mills' water systems (at 11 per cent), while smiths and workers in transport garnered 4 per cent each. In general skilled labour (for example, wood-workers and smiths) was needed much more frequently than unskilled;(30) presumably much of the latter would be provided by he miller himself. The figures an expressed in Table 4, however, obscure some important details. Although they claimed the lion's share of labour costs, carpenters and the like were employed rather irregularly. Indeed, the majority of the wages paid to carpenters, and such, occurred in the first year of the run, 1291-92, when 7 [pounds sterling] 14s. 10d. was paid out for replacing the roof to the mill complex; without that, the wages paid to carpenters would be much more in line with other types of workers on the mills. Indeed, in terms of steadiness of employment, the smith was the most frequent maintenance person seen around the mill, being brought in several times during the year to perform odd jobs. In contrast, carpenters might not be hired at all in any given year.(31)

Table 4 Feering, Essex, Water-mill Maintenance Costs, 1291-1305 (14 account-years)
Type of Cost d. of Total Costs

a) Labour
 Carpenters 533.5 6.4
 Wood Cutters 395.75 4.6
 Roofers, etc. 2122 24.6
Smiths 378.5 4.4
Transporters 358 4.2
Manual Labourers 980.5 11.4
Others -- --

Total Labour 4788.25 55.6

b) Materials
Millstones 3354.5 38.9
Metals: Iron 191.75 2.2
 Brass 121 1.4
 Steel 10 0.1
Wood 163.5 1.9
Canvas -- --
Others -- --

Total Materials 3840.75 44.5

GRAND TOTAL 8629 100.1

Sources: Westminster Abbey Moniments 25591-4, 25596-25601, 25603, 25605-6, 25608, 25610, 25612

Overall, the average amount of wages paid out for the maintenance of the Feering mills was 1.42 [pounds sterling]. This was much more modest than what occurred during years of major construction, but would provide a significant proportion of a yearly salary at either the skilled or unskilled labour rate. It was, however, a vastly fluctuating sum, ranging from 10 [pounds sterling] 12s. 4d. in wages (equal to several yearly wages) in 1291-92 to 3s. 2d. (a fraction of a yearly wage, even at the unskilled rate) in the following year, 1292-93. In terms of supplying regular maintenance employment, even relatively large milling complexes like that at Feering could fail in many years.

But in addition to providing a demand for local labour, the Feering mills could make their influence felt further afield. In the same year that labour costs were so low in 1292-93, 25s 3d. was spent on materials from outside, principally a millstone for 22s. 1/2d. Altogether, material costs averaged 1.14 [pounds sterling] per year for the Feering mills, the great majority of this (87 per cent) being spent on millstones, but significant amounts of iron, brass and wood were required as well (about 3s. per year's worth on average).

For windmills, the reliance on outside materials was even greater. Table 5 gives the labour and material requirements for the windmills at Turweston and Oakham mentioned above. Labour costs (at 24.8 per cent of total costs -- or 2s. 6d. per year -- for Turweston and only 10 per cent for Oakham -- 1s. 5d. per year) were meager for both mills, and, again, perhaps some routine maintenance was considered to be part of the miller's job. The major cost for outside materials, unlike water-mills, came from two directions. One, as expected, was millstones, but an even bigger component of routine windmill maintenance was canvas. An average of just over 5s. per year was spent on canvas for the Turweston mill and over 7s. per year for Oakham. These costs for canvas were remarkably consistent -- it seems that windmill owners put on a new set of sails as a matter of policy every year. Material costs other than millstones and canvas were much more modest (3.5s. per year for the Oakham mill and only 8-9d. per year for Turweston), but did provide a reasonably steady demand for nails, finished pieces of wood, and the like.

Table 5 Turweston and Oakham Windmill Maintenance Costs
 Turweston, Bucks Oakham,

Type of Cost d. of Total Costs d. of Total

a) Labour
 Carpenters 123 14.5 78 6.4
 Wood Cutters 9.75 1.1 -- --
 Roofers, etc. -- -- -- --
Smiths 24 2.8 38.25 3.2
Transporters 54 6.4 3 0.2
Manual Labourers -- -- -- --
Others -- -- -- --

Total Labour 210.75 24.8 119.25 9.8
 I I

b) Materials
Millstones 150 17.7 306.25 25.3
Metals: Iron 16.5 1.9 75.5 6.2
 Brass -- -- 27 2.2
 Steel 6 0.7 4.5 0.4
Wood 8.5 1.0 98 8.1
Canvas 429.5 50.5 530.5 43.8
Others 28.5 3.4 51.5 4.2

Total Materials 639 75.2 1093.25 90.2

GRAND TOTAL 849.75 100.0 1212.50 100.0

* Based upon a total of seven account-years ** Based upon a total of six account-years Sources: Westminster Abbey Muniments 7767, 7769-74 (Turweston); Westminster Abbey Muniments 20222-3, 20228-31 (Oakham)

What do we make of all these labour and material costs@ one of the things that seems clear is that the English milling industry required significant levels of labour to function effectively. Using the information from the above case studies, varying estimates of the amount of labour required by the milling industry at the beginning of the fourteenth century can be made. Altogether four scenarios have been constructed, depending upon the number of mills and the level of yearly earnings assumed to have applied at the time. These are included in Table 6, and a fuller description of how they were calculated is given in the appendix.

Table 6 Labour Requirement for the English Milling Industry (Wind- and Water-mills Only)
 Equivalent Yearly Wages
 a b c d

Operating Labour 10,000 10,000 15,000 15,000
Maintenance Labour 2,444 3,258 3,668 4,888
Materials Labour 1,390 1,852 2,082 2,778
Construction Labour 1,798 2,398 2,702 3,600

TOTAL 15,632 17,508 23,452 26,266

a- 10,000 mills and craftsmen's wages at [Laplacian operator]4 per year and labourers' at [Laplacian operator]2 per year b- 10,000 mills and craftsmen's wages at [Laplacian operator]3 per year and labourers' at [Laplacian operator]1.5 per year c- 10,000 mills and craftsmen's wages at [Laplacian operator]4 per year and labourers, at [Laplacian operator]2 per year d- 10,000 mills and craftsmen's wages at [Laplacian operator]3 per year and labourers, at [Laplacian operator]1.5 per year

The lowest estimate for the labour required by the industry, based on the low figure of 10,000 water-mills and windmills c. 1300 and assuming a relatively high level of earnings of [Laplacian operator]4 per year for skilled labour and [Laplacian operator]2 per year for unskilled suggests a full-time labour requirement of 15,632 people, while the highest estimate, based on 15,000 mills and earnings levels of [Laplacian operator]3 per year for skilled labour and [Laplacian operator]1.5 for unskilled, equalled 26,266 people. As the appendix indicates, the rough-and-ready nature of many of the assumptions employed in the calculations means that there is undoubtedly a healthy margin of error, but, generally speaking, it would appear that the milling industry in medieval England around 1300 employed at least 15,000 people and possibly as many as 25,000 or more. It should be said here, too, that we are only discussing labour associated with water- and windmills. It is likely that there was also a significant hand-milling industry (not to mention horse-milling), which I have estimated elsewhere as servicing 20 per cent of English society's grain milling requirements in the early fourteenth century.(32) As this sector of the industry was much more labour-intensive, it may have contributed disproportionately more employment than its market share would suggest.

Altogether, even if one only accepts the lowest estimate, the milling industry gathered round itself a considerable and varied workforce. It was a workforce that split round into two groups. Those involved with the operating side of the industry, principally millers and their helpers, had generally steady employment (although this could be disrupted by the various catastrophes that often beset mills). On the other hand, those involved in maintenance and construction had a much more uncertain demand for their labour, much indeed as the construction industry does today. Nevertheless, the existence of such a major industry clearly encouraged the development of groups of maintenance workers like carpenters, smiths and masons to service it.

But the period of growth that led to the establishment of this labour structure could not last for ever. In the case of milling, problems were already setting in by the beginning of the fourteenth century. The marginal nature of much of the investment that had been occurring in the closing decades of the thirteenth century and the opening decade of the fourteenth was already becoming clear, as investment was clearly beginning to outstrip demand; mills that were built at this time often had a very difficult time surviving.(33) Troubles intensified from 1315 onwards. Some of these were caused by exogenous factors, such as the inclement weather of 1315-17, which, among other things, caused severe damage to many mills.(34) Similarly, the aftermath of the English loss at Bannockburn in 1314 led to a sustained period of Scottish raiding in the north that, among other things, devastated milling in that region; revenues for the industry were never to recover there for the rest of the medieval period.(35) The political and social unrest of the second half of Edward II's reign was probably even more serious in disrupting the infrastructure of the industry as a whole across England. Many mills went down through simple supply problems, particularly millstones.(36)

Altogether, by the end of Edward II's reign, the milling industry was already downsizing. Perhaps most critically, there was no great enthusiasm for recapturing lost ground; some rebuilding of mills and some new building did occur, but never on such a scale as to return to the situation before 1315.(37) The impact upon employment m the industry was bound to be significant. The combination of the cessation of new projects, along with the tightening up of costs for the industry, such as cutting back on operating labour, using cheaper millstones, or recycling old iron and wood for repairs,(38) undoubtedly created a tougher situation for labour. How can one translate the experience of the milling industry into a larger comment about the medieval English economy? The opportunities offered and problems faced by the milling industry were undoubtedly shared by many others, such as the cloth industry, the mining and metal-processing industries, and indeed the construction industry as a whole, perhaps the most consistent mobiliser of non-agricultural labour in medieval Europe.(39)

The importance of "pull" versus "push" factors in the creation of this increasing pool of non-agricultural labour is difficult to assess. Certainly, in the first three-quarters or so of the thirteenth century, daily wages for craftsmen like carpenters were very attractive, probably at least 50 per cent more than the highest agricultural wages,(40) and it was presumably at this time, if any, that many people might been "pulled" away from the land into non-agricultural labour. But after the 1270s, the wages for craftsman, particularly those at the higher end of the wage scale like carpenters or tilers, began to decline against agricultural wages (see below). The suggestion here is that the available positions for non-agricultural labour were beginning to fill up. The occasional indication of the shortage of agricultural workers, even before the plague,(41) further suggests the power of the swing to non-agricultural labour. Indeed, with the increasingly fluid situation in the peasant land market,(42) many people in thirteenth and early fourteenth century were persuaded to reduce their reliance on agriculture for their living, as in early fourteenth-century Essex, where "at least half of local households were small holders or landless, drawn into wage labour or artisanal by-employment."(43) By 1381 in Essex, agriculturalists (that is, those who seemingly made most of their living by farming their own land) were heavily outnumbered by craftsmen, retailers, and labourers by a factor of three to one, and the similarity of the landholding situation in the county before and after 1348, with its consistent emphasis on small holders, indicates strongly that this situation was already in place well before the plague.(44) Although the situation in Essex was probably more extreme than the normal,(45) nonetheless the wage series data discussed above indicates that non-agricultural labour was increasing country-wide.

Eventually, as the example of milling indicates, the investment support for this increase in non-agricultural labour began to subside, inevitably resulting in a loss of jobs. But there are many uncertainties about the scale and timing of the employment crisis that isolated case studies cannot determine. For the milling industry the second decade of the fourteenth century seems to have been pivotal. For other industries only further research will provide answers, but there are signs that the reduced support for non-agricultural labour may have had longer roots. For example, David Farmer estimated that the real wages of craftsmen like carpenters and slaters were cut in half from the early thirteenth century to the beginning of the fourteenth. As he wrote: "The real wages of the craftsmen declined, one must assume, because there were too many of them at a time when investment in new manorial developments was slackening,"(46)

But the point of decline clearly differed from craft to craft, as can be seen clearly when Farmer's series of building workers' wages is compared against threshing and winnowing, the fullest and most consistent series of agricultural wages surviving from the records of the time. Table 7 provides ratios for a selection of craftsmen's wages over piece-rates for threshing and winnowing. Although the thinness of data for craftsmen, s wages in the early thirteenth century make the ratios for those decades questionable, by the 1260s the samples for the decennial averages are probably large enough to be representative.(47) For carpenters, it seems clear that they lost a significant part of their competitive edge against agricultural wages during the 1280s,(48) On the other hand, again only considering the 1260s onwards, slaters and tilers showed a sharp drop from the 1270s to the 1290s and again from the 1310s to the 1320s, while the thatchers' decline in wages against those from agriculture was much more gentle and gradual.

Table 7 Craftsmen's Wages Compared to Threshing and Winnowing Wages
Ratio of various craftsmen's wages against piece-rates
for threshing and winnowing* (pre-1348)

 Carpenter Thatcher and Slater/tiler
 Period** (alone) Helper and Helper

1208-20 0.74 0.76 1.37
1220-30 -- -- --
1230-40 0.93 -- 0.99
1240-50 0.70 0.97 1.42
1250-60 0.83 0.61 1.81
1260-70 0.79 0.81 1.59
1270-80 0.85 0.86 1.59
1280-90 0.62 0.88 1.42
1290-1300 0.62 0.77 1.20
1300-10 0.61 0.75 1.09
1310-20 0.64 0.84 1.21
1320-30 0.59 0.70 0.96
1330-40 0.60 0.72 1.01
1340-7 0.56 0.67 0.97

* In Farmer's table, the craftsmen's wages were expressed in pence per day (A), while the threshing and winnowing wages were expressed in the amount of money required to thresh and winnow one razed quarter each of wheat, barley and oats (B). The figures in this table are simply the former divided by the latter (i.e., A/B). The exercise assumes that the labour efficiency of threshing and winnowing remained constant during the period, so that the time required for the tasks did not change (thus affecting the daily wage). As far as can be discerned, especially given the static nature of the technology for the process, this seems reasonable: e.g., John Langdon "Agricultural Equipment, in The Countryside of Medieval England, ed Grenville Astill and Annie Grant (Oxford, 1988), pp. 100-1. ** Each period runs from September 29 of the first year to September 28 of the second. Sources: David L. Farmer, "Prices and Wages," in The Agrarian History of England and Wales, vol. II, 1042-1350 (Cambridge, 1988) p. 768 (Table. 7.7)

These contrasting experiences probably reflect differing craft responses to changing economic conditions. Carpentry, for example, may have been affected by the downturn in large-scale ecclesiastical spending on cathedrals and abbeys, which passed Its peak in the 1270s,(49) a trend (judging from the wage series) which was not significantly countered by such events as the Welsh castle building of Edward I's reign or the manorial spending evident on some ecclesiastical estates in the wake of the Statute of Mortmain in 1279.(50) The difference between slaters'/tilers' and thatchers' wages reflects the distinction between luxury and more commonplace roofing, the decline of the latter probably being cushioned by its broader customer base. In other words, each craft group (and indeed each industry) had its own pattern of growth and decline. The point to emphasize here, though, is that the height from which craft wages fell (in real terms) was predicated to a large extent upon previously impressive levels of investment. Thus, the growth of various industries during the thirteenth century based upon building and other investment led to a higher level of economic organization, particularly in the increasing numbers of non-agricultural workers. This was parallelled in turn by the increased availability of manufactured goods and particularly in the growth of urban population, recently speculated at about 20 per cent of England's population.(51)

When considering the downturn in fortunes for this element of the population when investment slackened, it is hard not to think in terms of recession. Unemployment (or at least underemployment) and hardship must have resulted for many of those who found themselves faced with a much reduced demand for their services. That there was a subsistence element to this dilemma is undeniable; in a time when social protection was much less than it is now, many of these workers and their dependents undoubtedly faced starvation. However, the roots of the problem did not lie solely in a fundamental shortfall in food production compared to population, but also increasingly in the problems of distribution within a society that was significantly less tightly connected to the land than it had been. This was the result of the unprecedented period of growth that characterized most of the thirteenth century. The new conditions of a much more substantially monetized economy, the development of a more vigorous industrial (or proto-industrial) sector and of a labour force to service it, much of it urbanized, created an economy that was overall much more powerful and sophisticated but also more vulnerable.

Altogether, the economic problems that afflicted England and indeed most of Europe in the early fourteenth century can possibly be seen as the first major recession in the modern era, a natural extension of the so-called "commercial revolution" of the thirteenth century.(52) That it is not more often perceived as such is likely a result of the plague that cut sharply across this developing economic trend and set in play an almost entirely different set of economic circumstances. But, even after the plague, many of the conditions leading to the early fourteenth century crisis did remain -- the loyalty to the money economy, the basic industrial structure, the willingness of increasing numbers of society to relinquish a subsistence mentality and to put their faith in the workings of the market structure to satisfy their basic nutritional needs. In effect, medieval people were already beginning to accept the benefits and risks of the modern economic system.


Estimation of Yearly Wages Provided by the

English Milling Industry, c. 1300

To estimate the labour requirement for the English milling industry around 1300, as laid out in Table 6, we start here with an estimate of the number of water-mills and windmills existing then. As mentioned above, this was probably between 10,000 and 15,000. Every one of these mills had a miller (or, in the case of a fulling mill, a fuller, and so on). Some of these millers, admittedly, might have been part-time, reducing the amount of full-time labour that might have been needed, but to some extent this would be countered in the opposite direction for those mills where extra help -- a miller's assistant -- would have been required. If we assume one miller per mill, then the operational labour required would be 10,000-15,000 people.

For maintenance and construction labour, both that hired directly and that inherent in the materials bought for the mill, we have the difficulty in deciding what sort of labour was needed. The maintenance and construction costs for the water-mills and windmills examined in Table 1-5 suggest that, overall, rather more was spent on skilled labour (wood-workers, smiths, and others) than on unskilled labour (transporters, manual labourers). Only the Marlborough mills construction costs show unskilled labour costing more than skilled; otherwise, the data show a clear preponderance the other way. The maintenance accounts in particular (Tables 4 and 5) show two-thirds to three-quarters of the costs for hiring labour being given to skilled workmen. Thus, in the calculations that follow it has been assumed that two-thirds of the labour costs would go to skilled labour and the remaining third to unskilled labour. Since the yearly earnings for skilled labour tended to be a little more than double that for unskilled labour,(53) this suggests that about the same number of skilled as unskilled labourers would be hired.

To convert the amounts spent on mill construction and maintenance into the equivalent number of full-time people it would employ, we must make certain assumptions about the average yearly earnings for both craftsmen and labourers. David Farmer's wage data suggests that craftsmen like carpenters tended to make somewhere around 3d. per day on average.(54) If the carpenter worked 240 days a year, he would earn 3 [sterling pounds] per year, probably a reasonable level of earnings for a craftsman. If he worked rather more days in the year and perhaps in a favourable location, such as close to London, this might easily rise to 4 [sterling pounds] per year. Similarly, a labourer at half this would earn yearly something in the range of 1.50 [sterling pounds] -- 2 [sterling pounds] per year.(55) As a result, two scenarios are presented here, one that assumes yearly earnings of 3 [sterling pounds] for a craftsman and 1.50 [sterling pounds] for a labourer, and the other at 4 [sterling pounds] for a craftsman and 2 [sterling pounds] for a labourer.

We will first consider maintenance labour, both in terms of labour hired directly and in terms of materials bought that reflected to some extent labour in them. Labour hired directly could be sizable. In the Feering case (Table 4), at an average 1.42 [sterling pounds] per annum, this would keep even a craftsman employed for a significant part of a year. Recognizing that not all water-mill complexes were as large as the Feering case, it seems reasonable to put labour costs for water-mills around 1 [sterling pounds] per year. Based upon the Turweston and Oakham data (Table 5), windmills hired much less labour than this. The average of the two mills was about 2s. per year. It seems that these are too low, and clearly many windmills used more labour. If we double this to 4s. (or 0.2 [Pounds) per year, which is probably still too low, it will at least give us a figure to work with. Assuming that there were roughly two water-mills for every windmill(56) and that the earnings for craftsmen was 3 [sterling pounds] per year and 1.5 [sterling pounds] for labourers, the equivalent amount of full-time hired labour for maintaining the 10,000 to 15,000 mills would range from 3,258 to 4,888 persons.(57) If earnings of 4 [sterling pounds] per year for craftsmen and 2 [sterling pounds] for labourers are assumed, then the figures ranged from 2,444 to 3,668 persons.

In addition to this, we have the labour inherent in the materials bought for mills. In the case of the Feering mills, this amounted to an average 1.14 [sterling pounds] per year, while for the Turweston and Oakham windmills, materials amounted to 0.39 [sterling pounds] and 0.76 [sterling pounds] per year respectively. Not all of this translated to English employment. Many millstones, for instance, were foreign ones, although transporting and marketing these stones did undoubtedly provide employment for many in England at the time.(58) On the other hand, the demand for canvas, iron goods, finished wood products, and the like, is amply evident from the costs. If we set these figures at 1.00 [sterling pounds] for water-mills and 0.50 [sterling pounds] for windmills and assume about half of these arnounts translated to actual wages for English labourers,(59) then the equivalent full-time labour at craftsmen's salaries of 3 [sterling pounds] per year and labourers at 1.5 [sterling pounds] (and assuming again that two-thirds of the labour costs in these materials would be for skilled work and the remaining third for unskilled) would range from 1,852 to 2,778 persons for the 10,000 to 15,000 mills, using the same methods of calculations as for hired labour above. At craftsmen's wages of 4 [sterling pounds] per year and labourers at 2 [sterling pounds], he range would be from 1,390 to 2,082 people.

Finally, we have the labour involved in the original building of the mills. For the water-mills for which construction costs were calculated earlier, total labour charges (assuming that half the materials costs can be considered as equivalent labour) averaged out to 16 [sterling pounds]. This would seem to be a modest estimate for water-mills, since we can easily think of more spectacular examples, such as the tide mill at Lydden in Kent, where over 140 [sterling pounds] was spent in a major rebuild of 1305-6,(60) but the figure seems reasonable for use in these calculations. For windmills, constructions were more modest still, but averaged a little over 12 [sterling pounds] for the Turweston and Oakham mills.

New constructions or major rebuilds, of course, were relatively rare occurrences. If we assume that such constructions would only occur about every quarter-century(61) and if we also make some deduction for what would be covered by routine yearly maintenance (here we have assumed equivalent labour costs for routine repairs, in both hired labour and materials, of 1.5 [sterling pounds] for water-mills and 0.5 [sterling pounds] for windmills(62)), then the equivalent full-time labour for extraordinary construction ranged from 2,398 to 3,600O persons for 10,000 to 15,000 mills at 3 [sterling pounds] per year for craftsmen and 1.5 for labourers. At 4 [sterling pounds] per year for craftsmen and 2 [sterling pounds] for labourers, the range for the 10,000 to 15,000 mills was 1,798 to 2,702 persons.

(1) This is most obviously seen in the work of Michael Postan, who consistently Placed land over labour as the easiest way for medieval people, and especially peasants, to make ends meet. When land was short, it was difficult for labour to fill in the shortfall, as, for example, in Postan's discussion of medieval English small holders: "We must therefore conclude that the supplementary income from wages could not wholly compensate small holders for the acres they lacked . . ." (M.M. Postan, The Medieval Economy and Society (Penguin edition, Harmondsworth 1975; originally published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson London, 1972) p. 150.

(2) These issues were brought to bear most recently in the Brenner debate: The Brenner Debate.. Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe, ed. T. H. Aston and C.H.E. Philpin (Cambridge, 1985).

(3) The prime mover in this direction has been Michael Pow whose "neo-Malthusian" model stressed the sensitive balance between population and land productivity. This was especially the case in relation to environmental degradation, which Postan and his followers (most particularly Titow) saw as being increasingly prevalent in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries: Postan, Medieval Economy and Society, J.Z. Titow, English Rural Society, 1086-1348 (London, 1969).

(4) Perhaps most usefully summarized in Christopher Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989) ch. 8 (on wage-earners).

(5) Particularly his "Prices and Wages" chapters in The Agrarian History of England and Wales (henceforth AHEW), vol. II, 1042-1350, ed H.E. Hallam (Cambridge, 1988) and AHEW, vol. III, 1348-1500, ed. Edward Miller (Cambridge, 1991).

(6) E.g., Dyer, Standards of Living, ch. 5; Farmer, "Prices and Wages," AHEW, II, pp. 772-79; AHEW, III, pp. 490-94. The degree to which wage-earners were driven by subsistence concerns has been questioned by Dyer (Standards of Living, pp. 224-25), while a study for a later period has also indicated that a variety of factors could be involved in attracting peasants to non-agricultural pastimes: Ian Blanchard, "Labour Productivity and Work Psychology in the English Mining Industry, 1400-1600," Economic History Review, 2nd series, xxxi (1978).

(7) Dyer has estimated that craftsmen's annual earnings were about double "unskilled" workers, Standards of Living, pp. 226-27.

(8) E.g., R.H. Hilton, "Rent and Capital Formation in Feudal Society," Second International Conference of Economic History in Aix-en-Provence 1962 (Paris, 1965), stressing the low level of seigneurial capital investment.

(9) Postan judged that "building was by far the most important non-agricultural occupation in the countryside" (Medieval Economy and Society, p. 227). J.G. Hurst ("Rural Building in England and Wales," in AHEW, II, esp. pp. 854-930) gives a survey of rural building before 1350, while a large number of works testify to the impressive scale of construction for medieval society as a whole during the centuries leading up to the plague, in terms of numbers of structures and amount of money spent on them: e.g., Colin Platt, Medieval England: A Social History and Archaeology from the Conquest to 1660 (London, 1978), esp. chs 2 and 3; R. Allen Brown, "Royal Castle-Building in England, 1154-1216" (originally published in 1959), in idem, Castles, Conquest and Charters (Woodbridge, Suffolk 1989); M.W. Thompson, The Rise of the Castle (Cambridge, 1991); R. Morris, Cathedrals and Abbeys of England and Wales (London, 1979); Richard Holth, The Mills of Medieval England (Oxford, 1988); D.F. Harrison, "Bridges and Economic Development 1300-1800," Economic History Review, 2nd series, xlv (1992).

(10) E.g, Edward Miller and John Hatcher, Medieval England: Rural Society and Economic Change 1086-1348 (London, 1978), esp. pp, 41-53. Most historians believe that the "pull" factor only became predominant after the Black Death: e.g., Richard Britnell, The Commercialisation of English Society 1000-1500 (Cambridge, 1993), p. 220; Zvi Razi, Life, Marriage and Death in a Medieval Parish (Cambridge, 1980), pp. 117-24; J. Ambrose Raftis, Tenure and Mobility (Toronto, 1964), pp. 139-66; Dyer, Standards of Living, pp. 230-31.

(11) John Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism in the Milling Industry of Early Fourteenth-century England," Past and Present, no. 145 (November, 1994), p. 5.

(12) Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," pp. 9-17.

(13) Women taking corn to be ground at the local mill is a common image in medieval illuminated manuscripts: e.g., Holt, Mills of Medieval England, plates 1 and 2 (pp. ii and 93).

(14) Their role in hand-milling might have been much mote prominent: see Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," p. 30, n. 78.

(15) John Langdon, "The Birth and Demise of a Medieval Windmill," History of Technology, vol. 14 (1991), p. 55.

(16) Accounts for Works on the Royal Mills and Castle at Marlborough 1237-38, ed. Sheila Challenger (Wiltshire Record Society, xii 1956), pp. 8, 11.

(17) E.g., Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 226.

(18) In the case of the Marlborough mills, skilled workers (i.e., wood-workers and smiths) took up nearly half of the labour expenses, while unskilled labourers and transporters took up the rest. If we assume that a skilled worker commanded 4 [pounds sterling] per year and an unskilled worker 2 [pounds sterling] per year, then the number of yearly wages arrived at by splitting up the construction labour costs equally between both groups would be 27/(2 x 4) + 27/(2 x 2) = 3.4 (skilled) + 6.8 (unskilled) 2 per yearly wages. Since these wage rates were probably generous for the time (e.g., see, Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 226), the number of yearly wages might easily have been more.

(19) David L. Farmer, "Millstones for Medieval Manors," Agricultural History Review, x1 (1992).

(20) Using the same method of calculation as in note 18. In the West Farleigh case, though, rather more was spent on skilled work: i.e., slightly over 60 per cent of the labour costs went to wood-workers and smiths.

(21) Langdon, "Birth and Demise," p. 58.

(22) Ian Keil, "Building a Post Windmill in 1342," Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 34 (1961-62),p 153.

(23) E.G, Richard Britnell, The Commercialisation of English Society 1000-15000 (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 112-13.

(24) As in the cases of the mills of Feering, Turweston and Oakham discussed below; see also Holt, Mills of Medieval England, p. 92.

(25) A "quarter" equalled eight bushels.

(26) As at Turweston where a miller was given a helper in the early years of the mill's operation (Langdon, "Birth and Demise," p. 65), or at Feering, Essex, where two millers -- seemingly with part-time wages -- were employed from 1300-1 onwards (Westminster Abbey Muniments 25603, 25605-6, 25608, etc.).

(27) As in the case of the Turweston windmill: Langdon, "Birth and Demise," pp. 65-67.

(28) For a good survey of the image of millers and how it related to reality, see Holt, Mills of Medieval England, ch. 6.

(29) Before 1300, it was felt one miller could run them both (e.g., Westminster Abbey Muniments 25599-25601), which would be difficult if they were very far apart.

(30) In the Feering case over the period discussed, 72.0 per cent of the wages paid for maintenance went to wood-workers and smiths and 28.0 per cent to transporters and manual labourers.

(31) As in 1292-93 and 1302-3 at Feering.

(32) Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," pp. 29-31.

(33) Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," p. 26; idem, "Birth and Demise," esp. pp. 62-66.

(34) Ian Kershaw," the Great Famine and Agrarian Crisis in England 1315-22," in Peasants, Knights and heretics, ed R.H. Hilton (Cambridge, 1976) pp. 88-89; John Langdon, "Water-mills and Windmills in the West Midlands, 1086-1500," Economic History review, 2nd ser., xlix (1991), p. 430; idem, "Birth and Demise," p. 66.

(35) E.g., Richard Arthur Lomas, "Durham Cathedral Priory as a Landowner and a Landowner and Landlord 1290-1540" (University of Durham Ph.D. Thesis, 1973), p. 131.

(36) E.g., Langdon, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," p. 26, n. 65.

(37) Langdon, "Water-mills and Windmills" pp. 430-31; idem, "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism." pp. 26-27.

(38) All of which, for example, were done in the case of the Turweston windmill in the early fourteenth century, when its revenues began to fail: Langdon, "Birth and Demise," pp. 64-65, 66-67.

(39) See note 9 above for the importance of the construction industry. Among other industries that were also in trouble by the end of the thirteenth century, the most Obvious one would be the cloth industry itself, which was allegedly facing increasingly still competition from foreign cloth imports, particularly from Flanders: Edward Miller, "The Fortunes of the English Textile Industry during the The Century," Economic History Review, 2nd series, xviii (1965), esp. pp. 74-77; for a dissenting view, see A.R. Bridbury Medieval English Clothmaking (London, 1982), chs 3 & 4.

(40) The comparison is difficult to make, because agricultural workers were generally paid in piece-rates (e.g., according to the number of acres harvested or quarters of grain threshed) rather than in so many pence per day as in the case of craftsmen. However, using the seemingly accurate observation made by Walter of Henley that two acres of grain could be harvested and bound by five men in a day, then the piece-rate per acre given in manorial accounts can be converted to daily wages. Thus, in the 1270s, the point at which craftsmen's wages began to fall against agricultural wages (see below), the average wage for a carpenter was 3.17d. per day. In the same decade, a team of harvesters was paid 4.61d. per acre on average, breaking this down into daily wages result in a wage of 1.84d. per day per harvester. Although harvesters, wages were often inflated because of the heavy demand for them during the narrow time constraints of the harvest, the carpenter's wages here were still 70 per cent higher (as taken from figures and information supplied in Farmer, "Prices and Wages," AHEW, II, pp. 765-69.

(41) As in the case of Wolvesey, Hampshire, where in 1300-1 manorial officials complained of a shortage of threshers and winnowers: Farmer, "Prices and Wages," AHEW, II, p. 765.

(42) The Peasant Land Market in Medieval England, ed. P.D.A Harvey (Oxford, 1984), esp. pp. 338-56; see also Graeme Donald Snooks, "The Dynamic Role of the Market in the Anglo-Norman Economy and Beyond, 1066-1300," in A Commercialising Economy: England 1086 to c. 1300, ed. Richard H. Britnell and Bruce M.S. Campbell (Manchester, 1995).

(43) L.R. Poos, A Rural Society after the Black Death: Essex 1350-1525 (Cabridge, 1991, p. 9). As poos goes on to say: "Unlike what may have happened in other regions of England, this situation did not change appreciably after the Black Death of 1348-9 extinguished one-third or more ofthe district's residents" (ibid.).

(44)) Poos, A Rural Society, pp. 9-31.

(45) The Essex experience is most typical of those counties falling roughly in a line from Lincolnshire down to Kent, as suggested, for instance, by the relatively high proportion of smallholdings in these eastern counties: for example, see AHEW, II, pp. 594-634.

(46) Farmer, "Prices and Wages," AHEW, II, 769.

(47) Ibid.

(48) A comparison of carpentry wages against wages for 1) reaping and binding and 2) mowing and spreading (based again on Farmer's figures) shows the same trend as for threshing and winnowing.

(49) E.g., Dyer, Standards of Living, fig. 3 (p. 102).

(50) Arnold Taylor, Caernarfon Castle (Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments publications, 3rd ed, Cardiff 1993), p. 11 (showing how widely the Edwardian castle-building programme drew upon English craftsmen and labourers); Mavis Mate, "Property investment by Canterbury Cathedral Priory 1250-1400", Journal of British Studies xxiii 1984), esp. pp. 8-12.

(51) Christopher Dyer, Everyday Life in Medieval England. (London, 1994), p. xv; see also Britnell, Commercialisation, p. 115.

(52) See especially Peter Spufford, Money and its Use in Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1988), Part II ("The Commercial Revolution of the Thirteenth Century").

(53) See for example, Dyer, Standards of Living, p. 226.

(54) Farmer, "Prices and Wages," esp. p. 768 (Table 7.7).

(55) This is the estimation for the earnings of yearly wages given by Dyer: Standards of Living, p. 226.

(56) For example, as suggested by inquisitions post mortem: Langdoth "Lordship and Peasant Consumerism," p. 12 (Table 1).

(57) For example, for 10,000 mills the labour required for water-mills would be (1 [sterling pounds] x 2/3 x 2/3 x 10,000)/3 [sterling pounds] + (1 [sterling pounds] 1/3 x 2/3 x 10,000)/1.5 [sterling pounds] = 1,481 + 1,481 = 2,962; while for windmills it would be (0.2 [sterling pounds] x 2/3 x 1/3 x10,000)/3 [sterling pounds] (0.2 [sterling pounds] x 1/3 x 1/3 x 10,000)/1.5 [sterling pounds] = 148 + 148 = 296. For water-mills and windmills together the total is 2,962 + 296 = 3,258. All other calculations in this appendix were done in a similar fashion.

(58) Farmer, "Millstone for Medieval Manors."

(59) Although it is tempting, for simplicity's sake, to use the Marxist dictum that all commodity value is embodied labour, much of the money paid for items bought for mills would have eventually found itself in the pockets of lords or merchants who had a strong hand in controlling the production of these manufactured goods through the rents they charged for the use of land or facilities. Actual wages would have only been a proportion of this total.

(60) Mate, "Property Investment," pp. 8-9.

(61) Full-scale construction costs for mills, of course, occurred relatively rarely. For example, the mill at Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, for which maintenance costs have been usefully compiled by Richard Holt, was substantially rebuilt every twenty-five years or so: Holt, Mills of Medieval England, pp. 178-81.

(62) Based roughly on the maintenance figures above.
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Title Annotation:Special Issue: Essays on Medieval Economy in Memory of David Farmer
Author:Langdon, John
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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