Economic Reorientation and Social Crisis in the Late Middle Ages
This chapter discusses the political conditions that contributed to the late medieval economic crisis. It describes the function of late medieval town governments included regulating sanitation, streets, poor relief and industry. The expansion of English textiles is the most significant new development. While before the 1270s the English exported mainly raw wool, the kings, whether chiefly as a money-raising device or to discourage the export of wool cannot be said, at that time began levying heavy customs duties. It is difficult to measure the extent of poverty in the early Middle Ages. The economic changes of the central Middle Ages, particularly the growth of population, meant that while many became wealthy, others became relatively poorer. Economic poverty that resulted from lack of skills that were marketable as labour and from wages that were inadequate to feed a family was rarely addressed by agencies of charity before the fourteenth century.