During the middle ages the main economic units were the villages and/or manors. These were self-contained economic units which ate most of the food that was raised. They sold the surplus food only in good years. There were basically two levels of people in this society; the peasant and the lord or priest.
First were the peasants or serfs who raised the food. "Serfs were peasant farmers who were neither fully free nor slaves. They could not leave the village, sell an ox, or marry without the lord of the manor's permissions."
The second level of society was the lords and priests. The lords required taxes from the serfs in both food and labor from each family. The church required 10% of everything the serf produced. The largest building in the village was normally the church. This higher level lived off the labors of the peasant class.
Each serf would have to pay to work a strip of land. The strip was defined by the acre. The acre was the amount one could plow in one days work. As well, the serf would have a set amount of days they would be required to work on the lords land. The system was called the open field system. In this system, temporary hedges would be set up to keep cattle out of the fields. The strips were only regarded as owned by the serf during the time of crop growing. After the crop was harvested the land would revert to common land for cattle grazing. This system was a disincentive to developing the land or conserving the soil.
During the middle ages, they used a three or four crop rotation in their fields. The rotation might be wheat the first year, barley the next, and the third year the land would lay fallow with nothing growing in it. The village or manor also had lands, which were known as the commons, where all the serfs or peasants could graze their animals.
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