The Decline of Demesne Farming

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The Decline of Demesne Farming

Direct farming under the supervision of a bailiff still continued on some ecclesiastical estates right up to the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. But, more generally, the demesne was leased for a term of years. It might be leased in strips by the peasants, and become an indistinguishable part of their holdings; obviously, this need involve no alteration in the routine of common husbandry.

Or it might be leased as a whole (especially where it was compact) to a firrnarius or "farmer ". Sometimes the farmer was a peasant, who would often be assisted by the hire of stock and implements as well as land; sometimes he was a city burgess who wished to invest in land, or one of the gentry or one-manor men.

These "farmers "are a new and important element in the economic structure of the country-side, on the whole making for change rather than for the conservation of traditional methods. Many of them were 8heepmasters, who produced wool for export and to satisfy the needs of the growing cloth industry.

The appearance of the "farmers" meant, moreover, the decay of the elaborate group-organization of the large estates, the gradual triumph of the local market over this organization.

The manor, which in some cases had never been able to establish itself, was now crumbling even where it had been most firmly established.


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The Peasants' Revolt

There were other reasons for the discontent which finally flared up in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. The economic depression was deepened by the failure of the war in France. Cr�cy and Poitiers were glorious, but barren, victories; the treaty of Bretigny did nothing to compensate for plague and the continued depression of the wool trade. Not even the Black Prince could do anything permanently successful against Bertrand du Gueselin; and France, though disunited and torn by the Jacquerie, was more than a match for the armies of Edward III. While John of Gaunt was acting as regent for Richard II, matters... see: The Peasants' Revolt


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