By 1300, England and other West-European countries had undergone a significant degree of commercialisation. More and more communities, both urban and rural, depended on an efficient network of local markets to obtain the goods they needed, in particular for their food. Yet in spite of this, some landed lords and, most notably, monasteries and convents continued to rely on the produce of their own estates, even though there were significant costs and risks associated with the production, transportation and storage of their own food. Philip Slavin sets out to account for this puzzling situation through an in-depth study of the changing patterns and fortunes of the provisioning of Norwich Cathedral Priory between c.1260 and 1536. Close analysis of contemporary archival sources reveals that the Priory made a deliberate choice, dictated by various economic, social and environmental factors and which, altogether, made isolation from the market a profitable, and very rational, option.
Philip Slavin is a Mellon Fellow and a lecturer in the Department of Economics at McGill University, Montreal, specialising in late-medieval economic, social and environmental history.
1. Introduction. 'A Puzzling Economy': Demesne cultivation and seigniorial autarky in the age of commercialization 2. Norwich Cathedral Priory: population, food requirements and provisioning channels 3. Norwich Priory's grain market, 1260-1538 4. Grain production on Norwich Cathedral Priory demesnes 5. Shipping the produce: transportation requirements, strategies and costs 6. Space for grain: barns and granaries 7. Grain into bread and ale: processing and consumption 8. Economics of charity: grain alms as poor relief Conclusions: seigniorial conservativism as an economic strategy