[Sca-cooks] Revolts and economics was Spices for preservation of meats

David Friedman ddfr at daviddfriedman.com
Wed Nov 22 08:32:32 PST 2006

>In the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, the complaint was not about hunger, but
>about the quality of the bread.  It is essentially an economic complaint
>having to do with the landholders increasing their profits while suppressing
>wages.  The revolt was based on moral indignation rather than starvation.
>In fact, many of the 14th Century peasant revolts can be described as a
>primative form of labor negotation.  While there were periods of famine in
>the 14th Century, it should be noted that they don't generally coincide with
>the revolts.
>Economically, the Black Death reduced the workforce and increased individual
>wealth by inheritance in all classes of society.  A scarcity of labor led to
>rising wages to which the Statute of Laborers (1351) freezing wages was a
>political solution.  The fixed wage let the rising cost of living cut into
>the prosperity of the working class, which led to the forcible petition of
>the Crown by Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, John Ball and company.  Shortly after
>the rebellion, real wages rose swiftly until they reached a peak in the late
>15th Century that was not be be reached again until the modern period.
>You need to take Clark's figures in relation to the real wage.  During the
>period described, real wages were rising despite edicts like the Statute of
>Laborers.  And they are rather low when compared to the 17th, 18th and 19th
>Centuries, when starvation wages were the norm.  It is an interesting study
>and I've saved a copy for further examination.
>The rise, peak and decline of real wages roughly correlates to the change
>from the Medieval climate optimum to the Little Ice Age, but whether this is
>casual or causal in indeterminate.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but the pattern you are describing 
doesn't seem to include a decline, unless your "rather low" in the 
last paragraph is a typo for "rather high." It sounds as though wages 
started rising due to population reduction, the trend was briefly 
held back by legislation, the attempt to hold it back was 
unsuccessful, and wages have trended up since then.

I'm also puzzled by in what sense "starvation wages were the norm" in 
the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries." The latter part of that is a 
period of historically rapid population growth. The second half of 
the 19th century, at least, was a period of historically rapid growth 
in real incomes; I'm not sure of the earlier period.

Generally speaking, I suspect "starvation wages" like the modern 
"living wage" to be rhetoric, not objective description.
David Friedman (Cariadoc knows nothing about any of this)

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