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        European Agriculture and Commerce, 1300 to 1450

        Agriculture in the Europe of the High Middle Ages (1300-1450) was very different from today. The land was mostly owned by local lords, and the work was done by peasants and serfs. The products produced on these large manors were consumed as food and traded in local markets along with wool, fur, stone, and lumber produced locally as well as silks, spices, and perfumes from the Far East.

        Review the images in this Media Gallery. Pay attention to what the images tell us about agriculture and trade in the High Middle Ages. Be sure to read the background essay and complete the worksheet in the Support Materials.

         

        Reaping, from a Book of Hours, 1400s

        Created in the 1400s, this image shows a man using a scythe to harvest grain. This form of manual labor would have been a common sight and a common way of life for people in the High Middle Ages in Europe. The illustration is included in the Book of Hours.

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        Cutting Trees and Harvesting, 1400s

        This illustration shows serfs farming on a manor in France during the 1400s. Take a look at how not only the different serfs are doing different forms of labor, but also how some different classes of individuals aren’t doing any labor at all. What does this say about life in the High Middle Ages?

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        The Laborer, 1400s

        This French illustration shows a laborer holding several farm implements, including a scythe, sickle, and spade. As this image makes clear, these implements were considered the tools of the serfs and the peasantry. The work was created by Jacques de Cessoles.

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        Seller of Rice, 1300s

        Painted by Giovanni de Grassi in the 1300s, this image shows a merchant selling rice. The fact that he was selling rice, a crop not indigenous to Europe, is an indication of the extent to which European merchants were connected to global trading networks. The work is a miniature from the Theartrum Sanitatis.

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        Transportation of Spices to the West and Unloading Spices in the East, 1400s

        The fifteenth-century painting shows spices being transported to the west and unloaded in the east. The fact that the figure depicted in the painting is selling spices from the far East is an indication of the extent to which European merchants were connected to global trading networks. The work is included in the Book of Wonders of the World by Marco Polo and Rustichello.

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