In this lecture Professor Hamerow will explain that the concept of the Medieval Agricultural Revolution has caused debate for over a century – was it a pre-Conquest development or linked to the Normans? Did it involve rapid change, or was it a more drawn-out process? Why can’t we agree? She will argue that “the central problem is a lack of direct, closely dated evidence for medieval fields and for the conditions in which crops were grown. We need new data.”
Hamerow will present such data, recently produced by the ‘FeedSax’ project. Analysis of medieval plant and animal remains excavated from sites across England have provided new information about the soil conditions in which crops were grown, soil fertility and soil disturbance, and whether crops were grown in rotation in the same fields, or separately in different fields; a study of cattle bones reveals the spread of the mouldboard plough by looking at the deformities in their feet.
“Just over 700 years ago, Europe emerged from a subsistence crisis of such magnitude, that it is still referred to as the Great Famine. Countless people perished, and it marked the end of the period of population growth and relative prosperity we have just considered…. Could centuries of highly extensive, low-input farming regimes and the associated deterioration in soil fertility, the evidence for which we have seen, have been an underlying causal factor?,” Hamerow will ask.
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Notes to Editors
You can sign up to watch the hybrid lecture online or in person; or email us for an embargoed transcript or speak to Professor Hamerow: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07799 738 439