Wondering how crops were rotated in the Middle Ages

Farming in the Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

For farm work, such as ploughing and harrowing, the draught horse used was called an affrus (or stott), which was usually smaller and cheaper than the cart horse. While oxen were traditionally used as work animals on farms, horses began to be used in greater numbers after the development of the horse collar. Oxen and horses were sometimes harnessed together. The transition from oxen to horses for farm work was documented in pictorial sources (for example, the 11th century Bayeux tapestry depicts working horses), and also clear from the change from the Roman two-field crop-rotation system to a new three-field system, which increased the cultivation of fodder crops (predominantly oats, barley and beans). Horses were also used to process crops; they were used to turn the wheels in mills (such as corn mills), and transport crops to market. The change to horse-drawn teams also meant a change in ploughs, as horses were more suited to a wheeled plough, unlike oxen.

Fast and accurate facts about the Farming in the Middle Ages

The Romans had used a two-field crop rotation agricultural system, but from the 8th century on, a three-field system became more common. One field would be sown with a winter crop, the second with a spring crop, and the third left fallow. This allowed a greater amount of spring crop of oats to be grown, which provided fodder for horses. Another advance during the Middle Ages was the development of the heavy mouldboard plough, which allowed dense and heavy soils to be tilled easily; this technology required the use of larger teams of draught animals including oxen and horses, as well as the adoption of larger fields. Particularly after the 12th Century, the increased use of both the horse collar and use of iron horse shoes allowed horsepower to be directed more efficiently. Horse teams usually were four horses, or perhaps six, as compared to eight oxen, and the lesser numbers compensated for the fact that the horses needed to be fed grain on top of pasture, unlike oxen. The increased speed of horses also allowed more land to be ploughed in a day, with a eight ox plough team averaging a half an acre a day, but a horse team averaged an acre a day.

The development of equestrian technology proceeded at a similar pace as the development of horse breeding and utilization. The changes in warfare during the Early Middle Ages to heavy cavalry both precipitated and relied on the arrival of the stirrup, solid-treed saddle, and horseshoe from other cultures.


Late Middle Ages | Middle Ages - The Finer Times

Throughout the Middle Ages it was customary for people of all classes and background to travel, often widely. The households of the upper classes and royal courts moved between manors and estates; the demands of diplomacy, war and crusades took men to distant countries; priests travelled between churches, monasteries and formed emissaries to Rome; people of all classes went on pilgrimage, or travelled to find work; others travelled as a pastime. Most people undertook small journeys on foot and hired horses for longer journeys. But for the upper classes, travel was accompanied by a great deal of pomp and display, with fine horses, large retinues and magnificent cavalcades in order to display their wealth as well as to ensure personal comfort. For example, in 1445, the English royal household contained 60 horses in the king's stable and 186 kept for "chariots" (carriages) and carts.

Farming in the Middle Ages | Middle Ages - The Finer Times

1300 The Late Middle Ages begins here and ends around 1500. The beginning of the Late Middle Ages witnesses the invention of the magnetic compass, greatly aiding overseas expansion and enhancing trade between places such as Italy and the North. Boniface VIII calls the first papal "jubilee," thereby recognizing pilgrimages to Rome instead of Jerusalem, which is no longer accessible to the West.

Peasants also developed the three-field system.

1200 The growth of lay education and the intellectual renaissance begin. Students start entering schools with no intention of becoming priests, and education is offered in European languages other than Latin. The rise in lay education causes a loss in Church control over education, the growth of literacy in the West and the transformation of cathedral schools into advanced liberal arts universities. Bologna and Paris are the distinguishing schools of the High Middle Ages.

Three Field Agricultural System ..

A 7-year-old in the Middle Ages became an integral part of the adult world, absorbing adult knowledge and doing a man's work as best he could during what today would be the middle years of elementary education.