Friday, June 29, 2012

Ploughlands and work weeks Ch 3: 'Plough seasons and teams'

We now have a schematic shaping up:
One hide = 120 acres= forty acres per field in a three course system
One acre = one furlong x 4 roods = amount of land ploughable by one eight ox team in one plough morning
Twenty days = amount of plough days needed to cultivate each of the two fields under cultivation in any given year or Forty plough days per year per hide.

Now ploughing is not at all the only task needed to cultivate grain, but it is certainly the most intensive in terms of pure human and animal effort. And given the numbers so far it would appear that a single ploughman could do this particular task for an entire hide in eighty days a year. Which works out to one day out of five, though typically grouped in two stretches comprising forty plough days each which with Church mandated Sunday and Holy Days would require around two months, weather permitting (and light rains on balance assist rather than detract from this kind of plowing).

But the important point here is that needed labor input is inherently limited not by the amount of labor hours in the day, but instead by the land available to plough and the plough teams needed to plough it. Just as important there is no particular bonus in intensification of the human labor, the furrough is plowed correctly or not and there are no practical do-overs, and the time required is dependent on the speed of the ox-team. And while you can get a team going by use of the ox-goad, you can't speed them up beyond their natural speed, under normal soil and weather conditions it will take that half a day to plough that acre.

So if we return to our original picture of the Engle-Exxon warrior peasant cultivating his own hide using man power drawn from his own household and oxen pastured on his own fallow field plus shared pasture we find ourselves far indeed from the standard picture of medieval serfs laboring behind a plow from dawn to dusk but instead the need for each household to come up with one half day of labor each workday for around four calender months a year, which in turn leaves substantial time for other agricultural or other tasks. For example the task that puts 'warrior' into 'warrior-peasant'.

Now as we will see it will not be the case in our fictional Angle-Land anymore than the historical England that this picture of equal free peasants on uniform hides of 120 acres each, whether or not an accurate depiction of immediate post Engle-Exxon conquest conditions, had transformed almost beyond recognition by a year some six centuries later, as seen in the Anglish year 1250, equivalent to A.D. 1250 on the parallel English caldender. But still leaving behind the fundamental structural reality: one eight-ox plough team could cultivate 120 acres per year with total human labor input for THIS SINGULAR TASK of one ploughman and one ox-boy for each of eighty half days. That is one plough = eight oxen = one ploughman = one acre = one work day. That simple equation will continue to operate no matter how you distribute the acres per cultivator/tenant/owner. And will have immense implications for our view of what Marx called the 'feudal mode of exploitation', at least in respect to labor time.

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