New Perspectives on the Medieval ‘Agricultural Revolution’

BookNew Perspectives on the Medieval ‘Agricultural Revolution’

New Perspectives on the Medieval ‘Agricultural Revolution’

Crop, Stock and Furrow


November 1st, 2022





Across Europe, the early medieval period saw the advent of new ways of cereal farming which fed the growth of towns, markets and populations, but also fuelled wealth disparities and the rise of lordship. These developments have sometimes been referred to as marking an ‘agricultural revolution’, yet the nature and timing of these critical changes remain subject to intense debate, despite more than a century of research.

The papers in this volume demonstrate how the combined application of cutting-edge scientific analyses, along with new theoretical models and challenges to conventional understandings, can reveal trajectories of agricultural development which, while complementary overall, do not indicate a single period of change involving the extension of arable, the introduction of the mouldboard plough, and regular crop rotation. Rather, these phenomena become evident at different times and in different places across England throughout the period, and rarely in an unambiguously ‘progressive’ fashion.
Presenting innovative bioarchaeological research from the ground-breaking Feeding Anglo-Saxon England project, along with fresh insights into ploughing technology, brewing, the nature of agricultural revolutions, and farming practices in Roman Britain and Carolingian Europe, this volume is a critical new contribution to environmental archaeology and medieval studies in England and beyond.

Contributors: Amy Bogaard; Hannah Caroe; Neil Faulkner; Emily Forster; Helena Hamerow; Matilda Holmes; Claus Kropp; Lisa Lodwick; Mark McKerracher; Nicolas Schroeder; Elizabeth Stroud; Tom Williamson.

Author Information

Helena Hamerow is Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Her many publications include Rural Settlements and Society in Anglo-Saxon England (OUP 2012) and with D. Hinton and S. Crawford (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology (OUP 2011). Mark McKerracher is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. His publications include Anglo-Saxon Crops and Weeds: A Case Study in Quantitative Archaeobotany (Archaeopress 2019) and Farming Transformed in Anglo-Saxon England: Agriculture in the Long Eighth Century (Windgather Press 2018).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Part I: Unpacking the ‘mouldboard plough package’
Chapter 1. The ‘FeedSax’ Project: Rural Settlements and Farming in Early Medieval England (Helena Hamerow)
Chapter 2. Lessons from Laxton, Highgrove and Lorsch: Building arable weed-based models for the investigation of early medieval agriculture in England (Amy Bogaard)
Chapter 3. Understanding early medieval crop and animal husbandry through isotopic analysis (Elizabeth Stroud)
Chapter 4. Land use in Central, East and Southeast England: arable or pasture? (Emily Forster)
Chapter 5. Innovation, technology, and social change: the adoption of the mouldboard plough and its impact on human-animal relationships (Matilda Holmes)
Chapter 6. Cattle and tillage in early medieval Europe: first results from the Lauresham Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, Germany (Claus Kropp)
Part II: Revolutions revisited
Chapter 7. Prospect and Protect: syntironomy and cereals in early medieval England (Mark McKerracher)
Chapter 8. The precursor to the revolution? Current understandings of the Roman agrarian economy of Roman Britain (Lisa Lodwick)
Chapter 9. An agro-social revolution in a Mid Saxon village: making sense of the Sedgeford excavations (Neil Faulkner)
Chapter 10. Malting, brewing and beer in Anglo-Saxon England: Mid Saxon Sedgeford – a case study (Hannah Caroe)
Chapter 11. The ‘cerealization’ of continental North-West Europe, c. 800-1200 (Nicolas Schroeder)
Chapter 12. Agriculture, Lords and Landscape in Medieval England (Tom Williamson)