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Why The European Economy Expanded Rapidly In A Period Of Political Fragmentation

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Chapter Summary

Around 1000 Western Europe was an economically underdeveloped and marginal part of the Eurasian continent. More importantly, Europe was principally agricultural, with a low level of urbanization, backward technology, low levels of commercialization and market exchange (again, compared to China and the Middle East), and a predominantly illiterate population. This chapter focuses on the underlying institutional changes behind the revival of Europe's economy. It deals with what at first sight appears to be an exception to this general pattern: Western Europe from 900 to 1300 experienced increased political fragmentation yet saw a spectacular expansion of its economy. Current explanations of the causes of the big boom of the high Middle Ages focus on the supply side of the economy, in particular on changes in agricultural techniques preceding it. Th e historical literature on social and economic developments in the Middle Ages usually devotes much space to feudalism.

Keywords: feudalism; Middle Ages; political fragmentation; Western Europe's economy



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