Term Paper: Agriculture Technologies in the Middle

Pages: 4 (1106 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The Heavy Plow

This plow was often mounted on wheels, which allowed the plowshare to be matched to the furrow being plowed. Several oxen harnessed in tandem, which became another innovation during this time period, pulled the plow. Later, horses in tandem frequently replaced oxen.

The heavy plow was essential in the efficient use of the rich, heavy, often wet soils of Northern Europe. Its use allowed the area's forests and swamps to be brought under cultivation (Gies & Gies 1995). Though even plowing with a heavy plow was unable to completely destroy the root systems of weeds in arable land long in production, it did expose much of those root systems to the open air, which inhibited the growth of the weed (Jordan 1996). Further, open fields plowed in long furrows were able to absorb great amounts of water, and because of the shape of the furrow, drainage caused little erosion. This tended to protect the rich, heavy croplands of northern Europe from heavy rains (Jordan 1996).

The Whippletree

The whippletree (also known as whiffletrees, swingletrees, splinter bars, or swing bars) is a simple piece of wood attached to the drawpole of a plow or cart at its center. The horses' harness then attaches to the whippletree at convenient places (Langdon 1986). The whippletree allows for flexibility in harnessing arrangements, makes harnessing in file much easier, and increases maneuverability (Langdon 1986; Mokyr 1990). The whippletree was used for three horses, two to be hitched on the left, one on the right. The length of the bar "A-C" is adjusted on each side of the drawpole "B" to equalize the effort of the three horses. The whippletree first appears in the eleventh century (Mokyr 1990).

Social Adjustments

New agricultural techniques brought about certain social adjustments. Since it took six to eight small oxen to pull a moldboard plow, the pooling of resources became necessity. This led to cooperative cultivation of the soil. By the 10th century most of Europe was divided into farming units known as manors (Mokyr 1990).

So new agricultural techniques and the rise of a military and aristocratic class creates a society of basically two social groupings: knights and serfs. The knights were the lords of the manor or manors. This established a uniformity in the regions where the moldboard (heavy) plow was used.

One of the most important developments in the Middle Ages was the experimentation and developments in iron production. In Europe by 900, there were significant changes in the production of iron. The above ground reduction furnace had been developed; this furnace allowed for the easier creation of iron. This iron could then be forged by local smiths into "parts for plows, spades, pitchforks, and shoes for horses beginning to pull with the aid of the new horse collar" (Gies & Gies 80-1).

Works Cited

Comet, G. "Technology and Agricultural Expansion in the Middle Ages: The Example of France north of the Loire." Medieval Farming and Technology. Brill, 1997

Gies & Gies. Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel subtitled "Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages." HarperPerennial, 1995.

Gimpel, J. The Medieval Machine subtitled "The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages."

Penguin, 1976.

Jordan, W. The Great Famine, subtitled "Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century."

Princeton, 1996.

Langdon, J. Horses, Oxen, and Technical Innovation. Cambridge,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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