chapter  1
38 Pages

The Nature of Medieval Peasant Economy

We have reaffirmed that peasants were primary producers in ancient, medieval and modem civilizations, and that they fulfil this role still in many contemporary societies which have not been industrialized. It might therefore be supposed that the definition of this class must be so broad as to be of little use as a tool of historical or social analysis. Furthermore, it might be felt that types offood production, even in Europe, are so varied that they could hardly be carried on by people with sufficient common characteristics to be identified as members of the same class. Yet clear characteristics of such a class, distinguishing it on the one hand from tribal food gatherers and pastoral nomads, and on the other from capitalist or collective farmers and agricultural wage labourers, can be seen to have existed over a very long period of time, in many different countries and in states with widely differing political systems.