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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2011

42 - Poverty

from VII - Political philosophy



The seismic economic changes that occurred in Western and Central Europe roughly between 950 and 1300 and known to historians as the Agrarian and Commercial revolutions had profound, long-term ramifications on the life and societal structures of the continent. Indeed, so dramatic were these socioeconomic developments that modern Anglo-Saxon historians in particular feel justified in distinguishing the former period from the one that followed: an early from a high Middle Ages. The classic accounts of this transformation of the European mainland relate how, with the cessation of the last of the external threats to the region known as the Great Invasions – the defeat in 951 of the Magyar forces in central Germany by Otto the Great at the Lech River – a period of relative internal calm descended upon Europe. The elimination of open warfare and defensive entrenchment paved the way for a resurgence of agricultural productivity, the renewed movement of trade surpluses across regions, the redevelopment of the old Roman road system, the rebirth of town life (especially in northern Italy and Flanders), the revival of commerce within these urban spaces and, most characteristically, the reemergence of the use of money (coin) as a neutral means of exchange between diverse peoples, with the subsequent development of the concomitant institutions of lending and banking.

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