Medieval Technology Innovation

1673 Words7 Pages
Medieval Technological Innovation More than fifty years after its first publication, Lynn White, Jr.’s Medieval Technology & Social Change continues to call forth a debate among historians with respect to Medieval technology. As articles by Bernard S. Bachrach, D. A. Bullough, and Alex Roland attest, White’s important work at the very least forms the cornerstone of the fascinating topic of technological innovation and the rise of social groups during the Middle Ages. White expounds upon the importance of the stirrup and how this seemingly insignificant implement spurred feudalism, how new technologies in agriculture led to a surge in population, and how the advances of machine power in the lives of Medieval peoples led to urbanization. The…show more content…
White puts great emphasis on the plow and argues that it was the first application of non-human power to agriculture For the first time, with the harness the plow substituted animal power for human power. As the first, the plow helped to usher in the manorial system in Europe. The plow had many advantages. It could handle clods better than previous rudimentary implements, saved peasant labor, and increased the area of arable land. Significantly, White gives credit to the heavy plow for changing the shape of fields from squarish to long and narrow. This shift in field shape particularly galvanized the communal aspect of villages. Villagers situated their arable fields next to each other and, with this arrangement, all fields were productive to the benefit of the whole community. Through the cooperative labor of many peasants, these communities were a primitive form of the manorial economy that Northern Europe would later…show more content…
European peasant society was reshaped with a bursting vigor. White begins his analysis of an agricultural revolution on the plow, saying, “the heavy plow is only the first major element in the agricultural revolution.” After the plow, the harness, in conjunction with nailed horseshoe, made the horse an economic and military asset. There were advantages for the peasant population to utilize equine power over oxen. Farm horses were stronger than oxen and had more endurance. Use of the horse-drawn plow soon became standard in European agriculture. White contends that Medieval peasants soon developed another method of farming that would revolutionize agriculture. Known as the “greatest agricultural novelty of the Middle Ages in Western Europe,” the triennial system of crop rotation allowed peasants to produce more crops and enriched the soil. The horse-drawn plow and triennial field planting “increased the returns from the labor of the Northern peasant,” raised the standard of living, and consequently the ability to buy manufactured goods. Again, White emphasizes the surplus of food that would have been made available, that would ultimately propel

More about Medieval Technology Innovation

Open Document