Evaluating the Effectiveness of Yield-Raising Strategies in Medieval England: An Econometric Approach
This paper employs multiple regression analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of yield-raising techniques available to medieval farm managers (reeves) using a panel dataset of 49 manors held by the Bishop of Winchester from 1349-70. There are three main interesting findings. First, annual weather variation, modelled with climate reconstruction, was highly significant in explaining annual yield variation in wheat, barley, and oat yields, though the weather influenced each grain differently. Second, there is evidence that planting leguminous fodder crops and livestock stocking rates had small or even negative effects on grain yields. Finally, there is indirect evidence that reeves responded to economic incentives in allocating labour inputs such as manuring, weeding, harvesting, and gleaning among their crops, giving them a small ability to adjust their output based on economic incentives. These findings complicate our understanding of the agricultural revolution. The ineffectiveness of short-run yield-raising strategies employed in open field agriculture would support Overton's traditional argument of the importance of enclosure for the gains in agricultural productivity. However, the whispers of price responsiveness on the manors might suggest that open fields were becoming more efficient, supporting Allen's argument that the first agricultural revolution was carried out by small farmers on open fields.
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- D.L. Farmer, 1977. "Grain Yields on the Winchester Manors in the Later Middle Ages," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 30(4), pages 555-566, November.
- Allen,Robert C., 2009.
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Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273, October.
- Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521687850, October.
- Stone, David, 2005. "Decision-Making in Medieval Agriculture," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247769, December.
- Askari, Hossein & Cummings, John Thomas, 1977. "Estimating Agricultural Supply Response with the Nerlove Model: A Survey," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 18(2), pages 257-292, June.
- Robert C. Allen, 1999. "Tracking the agricultural revolution in England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 52(2), pages 209-235, 05.
- M. J. Stephenson, 1988. "Wool yields in the medieval economy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 41(3), pages 368-391, 08.
- Allen, Robert C., 2008. "The Nitrogen Hypothesis and the English Agricultural Revolution: A Biological Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(01), pages 182-210, March.
- Hatcher, John & Bailey, Mark, 2001. "Modelling the Middle Ages: The History and Theory of England's Economic Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199244126, December.
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