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UNIT 8: Early Economies

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VIDEO SEGMENT: English and Japanese Manor Economy

The economies of some societies were based on self-sufficient agricultural estates. This segment explores such systems by looking at England and Japan between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries.

In England during this period, 90 percent of the population made their living from agricultural production. The principal social and economic unit organizing this production was the manor, an estate owned by a wealthy landowner and farmed by tenants who were either free peasants or serfs (people who owed obligations of produce or labor to the landowner). By the end of the eleventh century, agricultural production was increasing within the manor system because of technological innovations. This increased productivity resulted in greater agricultural surpluses, which peasants then sold in markets. The number and size of towns and cities consequently grew, which led to an increasing number of alternatives to life on manorial estates. This slow development of a commercial economy eventually resulted in the collapse of the manorial system in England.

In Japan during the same period, society was also largely based on agricultural estates known as shoen. Like manors, the shoen were owned by wealthy landowners and farmed mostly by peasants who rented the land. Unlike the manor system, however, Japanese landowners typically did not live on the shoen, the institution of serfdom did not exist, and everyone on the shoen held some legally recognized rights to the land. In spite of the differences between the English and Japanese systems, however, agricultural surpluses and the resulting growth of towns and cities also led to an increasingly commercial Japanese economy by the fourteenth century.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Takanobu, MINAMOTO YORITOMO (1147-1199 CE). Copyright 2003 Oregon Public Broadcasting and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Anonymous, PEASANTS (n.d.). Courtesy of Northwind Picture Archives.


Anonymous, PEASANTS RECEIVING THEIR LORD'S ORDERS BEFORE GOING TO WORK, 1400'S (n.d.). Courtesy of Northwind Picture Archives.

Anonymous Japanese, FARMING IN FOUR SEASONS. PAYMENTS TO LANDLORD. DETAIL (ca. 1625-1650). Courtesy of WorldArt Kiosk/Kathleen Cohen.



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