Peasants, Market Exchange and Economic Agency in North-Western Iberia, c.850-1050

Portass, Robert (2021) Peasants, Market Exchange and Economic Agency in North-Western Iberia, c.850-1050. Past and Present, 255 . ISSN 0031-2746

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Peasants, Market Exchange and Economic Agency in North-Western Iberia, c.850-1050
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Abstract

Our understanding of the economic foundations of rural society in early medieval north-western Iberia remains wedded to explanations that emphasise the structural limitations that framed human activity while seeking to attenuate the economic agency of non-elite groups and individuals. This article argues that the early medieval peasantry of north-western Iberia was not the staid caricature presented by much of the historiography, but a much more economically dynamic section of society. To demonstrate this dynamism, it uses charters to analyse peasant productive strategies that went beyond subsistence. These reveal that peasants not only dabbled in the land market but invested in non-movable capital goods, with the result that some peasants produced surpluses for the express purpose of exchange by the tenth century, fundamentally altering the contours of their communities from within. By examining the evidence concerning peasant ownership of watermills, the article sheds new light on causal explanations for phenomena as diverse as social mobility, the possibilities of commercial integration, and the logic of market exchange. It concludes by contending that narratives focused on uncovering the beginnings of growth must more readily concede that its origins are to be found both beyond as well as within seigneurial contexts.

Keywords:Markets, Social mobility, Exchange, Capital investment, Factor Markets, Peasants
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V224 Iberian History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V310 Economic History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:43112
Deposited On:24 Nov 2020 13:39

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