Agricultural innovation and socio-economic change in early medieval Europe: Evidence from Britain and France

Pam J. Crabtree

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Historical and archaeological data suggest that the Middle Saxon period (c. 650-850 CE) in eastern England was an era of substantial social, political and economic change. This paper argues that it was also a period of substantial innovation in animal husbandry practices. Zooarchaeological data demonstrate a shift from a non-specialized system designed to meet local subsistence needs to more specialized animal husbandry, focused on specific animal products - wool production, but at some sites also pork production - and designed to produce a surplus in agricultural commodities. A similar pattern can be observed in early medieval France. Several possible explanations are examined, including its relation to state formation, the rise of the emporia (the first towns of the post-Roman West), the spread of monasticism and the possibility that this represents a bottom-up innovation pioneered at rural estate centres. The zooarchaeological data suggest that both monastic centres and secular estate centres played a critical role in agricultural innovation in the early medieval period.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)122-136
    Number of pages15
    JournalWorld Archaeology
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2010


    • Anglo-Saxon England
    • Animal husbandry
    • Carolingian France
    • Emporia
    • Merovingian france
    • Rural estate centres
    • Specialization

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Archaeology
    • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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