The Economic History Review

The productivity of peasant agriculture: Oakington, Cambridgeshire, 1360–991

Volume 66 Issue 2
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Pages: 518-544Authors: ALEXANDRA SAPOZNIK
Published online: July 11, 2012DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2011.00654.x

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Agriculture was the largest and most important sector of the medieval English economy. Yet although peasants comprised the majority of the population, and were responsible for the greater part of land use, surprisingly little is known about peasant cropping patterns and production strategies. Taking the Crowland Abbey manor of Oakington, Cambridgeshire as a case study, this article examines peasant land use and agricultural strategies. Using data collected from the Oakington tithe accounts and manor court rolls, this article demonstrates that peasants used their land more extensively than did the lord, raising their output per acre above that of the demesne. This was driven by peasant need for fodder crops, and the strain placed on agricultural systems that required peasants to use their land to produce grains and legumes for consumption, fodder, and sale.