The plow, the tool that made possible the expansion of the eleventh century –

The history of the economy It teaches us that a technical development is often necessary to allow economic progress.

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This may seem like a no-brainer today, when the technology It is the main engine of the world economy.

However, for many centuries, the way to expand was through the conquest of landthe typical ancient and medieval way of increasing the economy. In this framework, something quite enormous happened: the intensive exploitation of the lands.

The impossibility of conquering new lands towards the Eleventh centuryled to numerous feuds of Europe to better manage the exploitation of the lands they already had, and to increase new tools that revolutionized peasant activity, the basis of the medieval economy.

On the one hand, the fallow system began to be used with three-year rotationwhich meant letting the land rest in order to achieve greater productivity in the long term, and diversifying products to face market changes.

On the other hand, new tools, which greatly facilitated the work and boosted productivity. The most important of all was the plowwhich was accompanied with smaller but useful items like the scythethe flail and the rake.

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The plow expanded from the Antiquitybut it was a plow precarious, without wheels, it had to be kept by the driver at the appropriate height or inclination to be able to plow the land.

That required a great effort, besides it produced irregular furrows and was limited, in reality, to scratching the floor. With this plow it was necessary to plow the field twice, in the form of a cross, so that the second series of furrows crossed the first at right angles.

The plow which began to be used in Eleventh century instead, it was a plow with wheels and a moldboard. The chute it is a device to guide the furrow and turn the land, like a rudder.

The wheel in the plow made it easy to carry and balance, but their inclusion made the plow that the strength of large draft animals was required.

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In its most finished form, the new plow included a blade to produce a vertical cut, a grid to cut the soil below the surface and the chute to turn and pulverize the earth, as well as wheel that allow more perfect furrows and facilitate the work of the farmer who manages it, relieving him of the task of always maintaining the plow to the level necessary to fulfill its function.

The exact origin of the new plowbut it seems to have been a German contribution, so it must have penetrated northern Gaul at the time of the Frankish migrations, but its diffusion was very slow before the 10th century.

Furthermore, the improvement of plow It was carried out through successive refinements until it took the modern form, essentially, towards the thirteenth century.

Thanks to this plowwhich was much more effective, could be break new lands. Thus, the old stick plow was gradually relegated and continued to be used only for very dry and thin soils.

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Sources: Torres, C. and Martínez, V.: History of the Middle Ages / Fossier, R.: People of the Middle Ages / Duby, G.: Rural Economy and Peasant Life in the Medieval West