Economics in a Historical Perspective For the convenience of the historians and the general people, the entire history of the European civilization has been classified into primarily three periods: the ancient times, the medieval times and the modern times…
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The powerful class of people acquired the ownership of some people from the lower sections of the society, who would perform duties as directed by their masters. These people were called slaves. However, medieval Europe developed a somewhat similar culture of interdependency between two classes of people which was known as “serfdom”. The medieval serfs were actually the dependant peasants. Serfdom first developed in France, where slavery had not been practices significantly. The European countryside during the Middle Ages were the seat of large houses called “manors” which were different from the Roman “villas” of the earlier times. These manors were built according to a typical design and were usually accompanied by large expanses of land meant for farming activities. The manors were the home of the medieval lords, who possessed considerable power and authority and were next to only the king in terms of their position. These lords used to engage peasants to carry out farming in the manor lands belonging to the lords themselves. These poor peasants usually had no land of their own and earned their living by working on the lands of their masters. In return for their services, they were allowed to live in the outhouses of the manors. They were also provided adequate protection by the lords and their armies in case of an unforeseen attack by the barbaric tribes which was common during the medieval times. However, serfdom was quite different from slavery. Here, the lords and serfs were bounded by an informal contract outlining their mutual authorities, obligations and financial relation (Phillips, 57). This marked an improvement in the conditions of the working class where they had been completely subservient to their masters during the prevalence of slavery. The population of Europe (including modern Russia) was estimated to be around 42 million in 1000 grew to about 73 million by 1300, which is recorded as the highest population during the medieval times. During these three centuries, the number of European people increased by 31 million compared to an increase of only 15 million recorded during the three centuries prior to 1000. There were several reasons for this significant growth in population. During the period 1000-1300, medieval Europe was characterized by the cultivation of new lands which increased the overall food supply. The agricultural sector flourished and buoyed by the positivity in the economy, the population started increasing. The human settlement began to expand to new territories, especially to the fertile valleys of the rivers Elba and Oder. The European people moved eastwards to acquire new lands and build their livelihoods over there. They build up their new settlements in mainly three directions: to the south towards the Hungarian plain following the natural course of river Danube, to the central lowlands of “Thuringia, Saxony and Silesia” and towards the north bordering the coast of the Baltic sea which finally led to the formation of new cities such as Rostock and Konigsberg. The boundaries of the major existing cities were expanded to include more people within the cities while in the countryside, new castles were constructed and new villages were formed by the increasing population. In addition to this, there was lesser migration of the European people to other countries like Scandinavia in the north, Russia to the east etc. All these factors explained the significant increase
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