The Nature of Feudal Economies

A very small scale of economic activity

Generally speaking, the range of effective economic interaction was about 20 miles

Primary emphasis on agricultural production

Five Primary groups: kings, nobles, merchants, priests, and serfs

Kings controlled money and security
Nobles controlled agriculture
Merchants controlled trade
Priests controlled behavior
Serfs controlled nothing but served as the labor force

Feudal economy characterized by:

  1. Lord-vassal relationship
  2. Authority extremely local
  3. Authority based on landholding
  4. The emergence of landlord rights

The Breakdown of Feudal Economies

Decreased supply of labor caused by the Black Death
Increased trade possibilities caused by travel
The idea of private property and its clash with the idea of sovereignty

The emergence of mercantilist thought

Not a single, unified body of thought
Characterized (quite logically) by unique characteristics of individual localities
Not even recognized as a body of thought except in retrospect
Broad agreement that economics should be subordinated to the interests of the state.

The genesis of mercantilist thought

Three powerful forces

  1. the rise of the nation-state
  2. the commercial revolution
  3. the decline of the medieval economy

The rise of the nation-state

Problems of scale (empires vs. city-states)
Posed as tradeoff between loyalty and resources Greater centralization of authority

Demands of the nobles for protection of their property

Magna Carta

The commercial revolution

Increase in the volume of trade
Widened geographical scope of trade
Introduction of new products
The decline of the medieval economy

New ways of thinking about economic activity-emphasis on production

The mercantilist practice

Colbert to the town officials and people of Marseilles, 1664

External policies

Favorable balance of trade
Merchant marine
Colonial system

Internal polices

regulation of prices and wages
regulation of labor

poor laws

regulation of consumption

sumptuary laws

Political implications of mercantilist economics

The assertion of national power and the presumption of right

Assumption that the welfare of the community would follow from the pursuit of national strength and power

The Duties of the classes and the harmony of interests

The laborer's lot

workers were to be poor but not impoverished

The responsibilities of the rich

to consume but only to increase the power of the state

The merchant's duty was to produce article for trade

to enhance the store of gold

The obligations of the nobility

to produce sufficient food and raw materials

The harmony of interests

well-ordered national community-no inherent conflict between or among the groups

a moral community
a visible and omnipresent hand

The international anarchy among states

Increase in Military Manpower, 1470-1710

Assumption of nothing but conflict and war
Economic competition was political rivalry
Commercial transactions are always political

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