Feudal Europe
What was life in rural areas?

A landscape of small villages and forests

In the Middle Ages, most of the population worked in farming activities. From the 9th century onwards, peasants gathered in villages, where houses surrounded a castle or a parish church.

Peasants lived in small houses, with usually only one room and a shed to shelter the animals.

Farming lands surrounded the villages. These lands were organised in concentric rings. In the first ring, close to the houses, there were small family orchards. In the second ring,  the vines, olives and cereals. Beyond these lands, the forest spread, and here the population obtained their supply of fruit, wood and animals.

Medieval village

How did agriculture reform cause a demographic growth?

The spreading of agriculture

From the 11th century onwards, agriculture grew significantly in Europe.

  • On the one hand, the technical innovations improved agricultural production. Among other innovations, it is worth mentioning the plough mouldboard, which worked the lands more deeply, and the triennial rotation of crops, which allowed the peasants to grow cereals in the same piece of land in winter and spring and to reduce the time of fallow to one in three years. In the Mediterranean regions, irrigated lands spread together with the introduction of new crops. The spreading of the hydraulic mill was also important.

The triennial rotation of crops

  • On the other hand, the area under cultivation was increased. Trees were felled, marshes were drained and new lands were worked that had not been under cultivation before.

Mouldboard plough

As a consequence, nourishment improved and the population grew.

Medieval Society                                                               The rebirth of cities