The social economy of the medieval village in the early fourteenth century



A significant issue for the historical investigation of the nature of the economy and society of the medieval English village has been the extent to which wealthier villagers were able and willing to respond to the needs of their less fortunate neighbours through informal charity, including the extension of credit and lowered costs for foodstuffs in periods of harvest failure. This article presents a case study of aspects of the local economy, principally viewed through land market activity and inter-personal litigation, in the early fourteenth century. It concludes that, in this context, there is little evidence for such non-aggressive activity during the subsistence crises of c.1300. Instead, a focus on the market and best economic opportunity persisted in ways that were likely to have been antithetical to contemporary views of charitable giving and which may have informed other aspects of social and economic dealing within the local community.