Agriculture

Agriculture

Battles in the Thirty Years War were mainly fought in rural areas and it would be easy to assume that agriculture suffered because of this. However, in one sense, the impact of the Thirty Years War on agriculture may have done a lot to modernise its approach to output.

The Thirty Years War had an impact on crop prices but these affected Europe at different times. Germany and the United Provinces experienced price rises in the 1630's while Austria, England and the Spanish Netherlands did so in the 1640's. But did the war cause price rises or did crop producers use the war as an opportunity to increase prices knowing that people, more than ever in times of war, needed a good supply of food?

Figures for crop production are very difficult to acquire. Europe experienced price changes and highs and lows in production in times of peace let alone in the dislocation caused by war.

During the war, estate owners consolidated their land to get the best out of it that they could. By 1648, many estates especially in Pomerania and Mecklenburg were run on 'modern' lines. Jobs were at a premium and the lords who owned the estates had the advantage over the local peasant population who needed employment. A shift in emphasis occurred in that estate owners moved into newer fields of production such as wine and cattle as these were believed to be more lucrative. Bailiffs and estate managers were employed to get the best out of land. Peasants who worked on the land were expected to work longer hours - or to look for work elsewhere.

But did the war introduce an new era of serfdom? 

Medieval Europe had seen serfdom when peasants were seen as objects that worked and estate owners had almost a carefree attitude to the work done on their estates. By 1648, a more calculated approach was seen whereby peasants were a means to an end - increased production which was the result of increased exploitation of land. Profit became the key issue rather than keeping the peasants in their feudal place. In this sense, the peasants played an important part in this development as no advance could be made without their input. The wages earned by peasants who worked on estates did increase during this era and ports like Danzig actually grew during the Thirty Years War as its main task was exporting food produce to overseas markets. 

This development of commercial capitalism in the early C17th makes a link with Medieval feudalism untenable. The Medieval concept was keeping the peasants in their place. The C17th approach was to make as big as profit as was possible and this had to require a positive relationship between the estate owner and the peasants.


MLA Citation/Reference

"Agriculture". HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2014. Web.






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