James Gallagher


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Developments in the Middle Ages

the early Middle Ages, Europe most of the population was bound to working in
the fields and had to work for their own protection. Every village had to be
self-sufficient because they had no access to trade. The lack of surplus of
resources, particularly agricultural, was the reason for this. Some
agricultural tools such as the scratch plow existed but were inefficient for
supplying large harvests. The ox was also available but not accessible to the
average worker. Also, communication in nearby areas were poor and made for many
different types of farming rather than one universal procedure. Furthermore,
the “two-field” system wasted one half of any potential harvests. Moving into
the high Middle Ages, many advancements were made to improve the status of Europe.
In addition, the plagues in Europe were over, and the invasions of outside
countries were lessening at this point.  

first development was the three-field system which allowed for year long crops
with less plowing and more harvest yield. Rather than one crop with one fallow,
it accounted for a winter crop, summer crop, and a fallow. This cycle lasted
for four years instead of the two-field system that lasted three years. More efficiency
meant that more land could be used for harvest. The heavy plow was a vast
improvement over the scratch plow. It stirred more soil which eliminated the
need for cross plowing. The heavy plow also created furrows. These furrows
helped in both times of drought and times of flooding by holding water in the
small channels as well as dissipated excess water through the same channels.
Because the heavy plow required more oxen, it forced the workers to share their
share of oxen which led to the splitting of crop fields. This let each worker
manage their own section. These sections were also longer making for more
efficient plowing. Another major development was the horse for plowing. The
horse was both faster than an ox and could work longer. Other developments such
as the horse collar helped to improve the horse’s efficiency. A disadvantage of
the horse was its larger food consumption. The use of the horse for agriculture
also meant that food could be delivered to farther destinations, thus expanding
the size of a town. Finally, the horse used a four-wheeled cart rather than a
two-wheeled cart, increasing maneuverability and payload. There are other benefits
that can be contributed to a warmer climate at the time, allowing for longer

advancements made in agriculture from the early Middle Ages to the high Middle
Ages were revolutionary and saved Europe from Medieval times. Overall, more
efficient methods of farming meant that more time could be spent to make more
crops or utilize more land. This contributed to the revival of European towns
and cities. Although greater security brought to Europe by feudalism helped
secure resources, agricultural developments from the high Middle Ages were crucial
to the preservation and advancement of civilization.


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