A Social History of the English Countryside by G. E. Mingay PDF

By G. E. Mingay

Lines the increase and fall of rural England from the center a long time to the second one global warfare and the character of the alterations that have happened.

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In winter, when rain, snow and frost made fieldwork out of the question, the heavy labour of threshing with the flail was performed in the barn. Villeins threshed for the lord for either a certain number of days or a fixed amount of corn. The winnowing was sometimes done by the villeins, but often by women, by the dairymaid for instance, or perhaps the wives of the oxherds. Finally, the corn was ground at the lord’s mill (or in the peasant’s home with the humble quern stone), and the lord’s toll was fixed at a sixteenth part of the produce, or alternatively at a twentieth or a twenty-fourth part.

By the thirteenth century, however, the farmer’s obligations were regulated, and restricted, by the custom of the manor, custom which hardened into local law. By this time, too, most obligations were usually expressed in money terms, and the wealthier villeins, at least, were able to hire people to perform the labour services they owed to the lord. As the population was increasing and labour was cheap the lords themselves came to prefer hired labour for working the demesne, and increasingly labour services were commuted into money payments.

Communities relying heavily on arable common fields frequently had large numbers of unfree tenants, and were found in the midlands and in the more heavily populated south and east. Communities dependent more on wood-pasture or open hill pastures, supported by small enclosures for either arable or pasture, relied heavily on their livestock and tended to have a large proportion of free cultivators. Some woodland pasture districts, such as the Forest of Dean and the Weald, were noted for their numbers of charcoal-burners and ironsmiths, while rather remote and hilly areas had their miners, such as the tin-miners of Cornwall 28 THE PROGRESS OF THE PLOUGH and the lead-miners of the Mendips, the High Peak and ‘Hexhamshire’.

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