The NPR show Planet Money regularly posts podcasts dealing with economics and the business market. Over the last few weeks they have also delved into medieval economics, starting with a two-part conversation with Philip Daileader, Associate Professor of History at The College of William and Mary in Virginia.
The first part of the podcast provides an overview of how a typical medieval economy worked, including the role of guilds, knights and peasants.
The second part of their conversation examines what life was like for a medieval peasant in France in the 12th century.
Planet Money has now released a third part for this topic – they speak with historian Kenneth Pomeranz who says that life in pre-industrial China was also difficult too. Life expectancy in the lower Yangtze River Valley was probably about 35 in the year zero, Pomeranz says, and it was probably about the same in 1800. At least from the year 1,000 on, people began spending more time working, but without much to show for it.
Yet Pomeranz, author of the The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, says it was one of the best places on the planet for poor people to live until the eve of the industrial revolution.