The Medieval Paupers

The Medieval Paupers - The Medieval Paupers Who Were the...

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The Medieval Paupers Who Were the Medieval Paupers? About 20% of the medieval population were destitute and homeless, wandering the roads of Europe looking for work or for charity, and climbing beneath a roadside hedge to die. Although they were ubiquitous, they have been neglected by historians because of the lack of sources discussing them directly. One exception was the starving beggars who followed "King" Tafur on the First Crusade. They were utterly without fear and, when food was low, would go out and capture one of the Muslim opponents. They would then roast and eat him. Leaders of both Muslims and Christians feared the beggars and finally conspired to lure them out into a waterless desert and abandon them there without supplies. Only a few survived. Why Were Some People Paupers? Most paupers fell into one or another of three groups. The physically incompetent : the mentally retarded, blind and deaf, halt and aged, the deformed, maimed or mutilated, "lepers," epileptics, emotionally disturbed, and others. The socially marginalized : widows and orphans without protection, any criminals who had been "marked," captured soldiers who had been maimed, old women, the "immoral," and others cast out of their own societies. The economically deprived : those who had been left homeless by the agricultural and commercial revolutions. The last group was perhaps the largest and grew throughout the later middle ages. Improvements in agricultural technology had increased both production and productivity . This meant that a larger population could be supported by a smaller proportion of its people. Let's make that a bit more concrete. If a million people can be supported by the work of 90%, there will be 100,000 people without work. If the population grows to ten million, however, there will be 1,000,000 million people out of work. When the expansion of medieval agriculture reached its limit, there were no new lands for the unemployed to settle, and they became permanently indigent. At the same time, manufacturing had been increasing and this manufacturing required a great deal of agricultural raw materials such as hides, fleece, flax, hemp, and the like. This meant that manufacturers and merchants took over land that had once supported peasant families to raise sheep or flax or hemp instead of wheat. Such proprietors did away with the system of scattered strips in open fields and
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The Medieval Paupers - The Medieval Paupers Who Were the...

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