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

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Fri Nov 24 21:23:07 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
>>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
>>the revolts.
>>Economically, the Black Death reduced the workforce and increased
>>wealth by inheritance in all classes of society.  A scarcity of labor led
>>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
>>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
>>Laborers.  And they are rather low when compared to the 17th, 18th and
>>Centuries, when starvation wages were the norm.  It is an interesting
>>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
>>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.

My apologies, I see my thoughts are completely unclear in this paragraph.  I
was trying to point out that the percentage of the daily wage applied to
various necessities was considerable lower in the 14th and 15th Century than
the same percentages in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Real wages peaked in the 15th Century and began declining in the 16th
Century, possibly due to inflation from the wealth flowing into Europe.  The
decline continued through the 17th and 18th Centuries with real wages
dropping lower than they had been in the 14th Century.  The 19th Century
brought an increase in real wages, but they were still below their peak in
the 15th Century until some time after 1860.

> 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)

"Starvation wage" is certainly rhetorical.  I am using the term in reference 
to a period when cost-of-living surpassed wages.  While real wages were 
growing for most of the 19th Century, the cost of living did not decline in 
relation to wages until some time after 1860.  I would also submit that the 
rapid population growth between 1700 and 1850 exacerbated the problem, by 
outstripping job growth.  I feel fairly secure in this supposition, based on 
Malthus's observations on population.  Without the disruption of 
technological advances to alter employment and accelerate job growth, the 
labor situation in the 18th and 19th Centuries would be just the obverse of 
the labor situation in the 14th Century after the Black Death.


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