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The pirate fishermen: The political economy of a medieval maritime society

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the issue of the earldom's political economy. It provides answer to questions, was Orkney really as wealthy as is sometimes assumed? And what were the social and economic bases of this wealth? and in so doing implicitly suggest a number of factors which may also prove illuminating in the context of other comparable maritime principalities. Wealth in general can be defined as the means of production. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence, saga evidence and later sources (particularly rentals) indicate the wide range of things that might fall into this broad category. These are considered in detail, but important examples included precious metals (as bullion, coinage or objects), wood (particularly in the form of ships and boats), labour (including warriors, slaves and tenants), land, textiles (elite and mundane), livestock, foodstuffs (ale, wine, cereal products, butter, fish and so on), salt and oil (from seals, seabirds, whales and particularly fish).

Keywords: earldom's political economy; fish; foodstuffs; maritime principalities; Orkney



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