Economy and Population 1200–1400


Map Code: Ax01578

Throughout the High Middle Ages, the British population was overwhelmingly agricultural. At the outset, that population was organized within the feudal manorial system, with villeins (freeholders) and cottars (tenants) contributing a proportion of their produce to both the feudal magnate and the clergy. Over the period, the number of freemen owning land in ‘socage’ (tenure), increased, a trend accelerated by the huge depopulation occasioned by the Black Death (1348–52). The most significant export was wool, with different regions having specialisms in quality. In the 14th century, England began to produce its own worsted cloth, becoming a net exporter. Mining was widespread: lead was usually mined in association with silver, with the major source near Carlisle, while coal was mined in the northeast. Iron ore was mined in both the Forest of Dean and Cumbria. Maritime commerce was dominated early on by the Baltic and Genoese merchants; luxury imports include silks, spices, and wines.

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