Saturday, November 5, 2016

"Not one of Free Enterprise, Neither was it Socialism."

I think it is common for us in the post industrial world to think of anything before that as a toiling and grinding life that only brought relief at night when a person laid down on his straw ticking and went to sleep only to awake the next morning hours before daylight and repeat the whole process.

 Especially in Medieval times, the common belief is that the subjects of a local lord were nothing more than slaves.

 In their book "Life in Medieval Village", Francis and Joseph Gies do a wonderful job of offering a very balanced and in some cases a downright contrary view to the position above.

 They write of the Lord of the Manor :

 " The Lord could have little objection to village autonomy. What he wanted was was the certainty of rents and dues from his tenants, the efficient operation of demesne, and good prices for wool and grain." 

 "The once popular picture of the lord as "an omnipotent village tyrant" was, in George Homan's words, "an unrealistic assumption". 

 Now, shifting our focus to the medieval villagers themselves, we see an autonomy of the individual, while also seeing the complete cooperation of the community.

 " The open field system was thus not one of free enterprise. It's practitioners were strictly governed in their actions and made to conform to a rigid pattern agreed on by the community, acting collectively. 

"Neither was it socialism. The stips of plowed land were held individually, and unequally. A few villagers held many strips, most held a few, some held none. Animals, tools, and other movable property were divided unequally."

 The community was separated into several class of tenants and the poorer tenants would usually work for the more well off villagers or the lord himself in order to make their living.

 What strikes me is, poor or rich, there doesn't seem to be much idleness. The community seems to have pulled it's weight no matter what end of the monetary spectrum you landed.

 In our modern world, the Amish are the only ones who come remotely close to living this kind of autonomous but equally communal life. But even they fall short of my ideal.

 I hope someday, I get to see this sort of system come back into operation complete with a Lord of the Manor.


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