Medieval Enclosure: Wealth, Poverty, and the Road to the Industrial Revolution

Wealthy landowners enclosed (privatized) the commons for their own profits, impoverishing many villagers. By Jay Walljasper Medieval European agriculture was communally organized. Peasants pooled their individual holdings into open fields that were jointly cultivated, and common pastures were used to graze their animals.This system of village commons prospered for more than six hundred years at[…]

Medieval Poverty, Wealth, and Gluttony

Two different perceptions of the sin of overeating in the Middle Ages. Gluttony—overindulging in food or drink—was one of the seven deadly sins of the medieval European church. In the medieval view, the story of Adam and Eve established gluttony as man’s original and worst sin. Tempted by the snake, they ate the forbidden fruit[…]

Social Class in the American Colonies

Social class was prevalent and largely property-based in the colonies. The Colonial Elite Overview In New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies, the elite were wealthy farmers or urban merchants; in the South, they were wealthy planters. British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor helped give rise to[…]

Gluttonous Wealth and Desperate Poverty in the Middle Ages

The message in medieval manuscripts is clear: The rich are good, the poor are trouble. Gluttony—overindulging in food or drink—was one of the seven deadly sins of the medieval European church. In the medieval view, the story of Adam and Eve established gluttony as man’s original and worst sin. Tempted by the snake, they ate[…]

The Continuation of Ancient Roman Patricianship in Post-Roman Europe

With the establishment of the medieval towns, Italian city-states and maritime republics, the patriciate was a formally defined class of governing wealthy families. Introduction Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were the only people allowed to exercise many political[…]

What Hundreds of American Libraries Owe to Carnegie’s Disdain for Inherited Wealth

One reason why the steel magnate spent so much of his fortune building libraries across the nation and abroad is that he saw handing large fortunes to the next generation as a waste of money. The same ethos that turned Andrew Carnegie into one of the biggest philanthropists of all time made him a fervent[…]