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Changes in Diet in the Late Middle Ages: the Case of Harvest Workers

Changes in Diet in the Late Middle Ages: the Case of Harvest Workers

By Christopher Dyer

Agricultural Historical Review, Vol.36:1 (1988)

Abstract: The custom of feeding workers during the autumn on various manors in eastern and southern England provides an opportunity to quantify changes in diet over two centuries. In the thirteenth century harvest workers were given much bread and some cheese, with relatively small quantities of ale, fish and meat. Two centuries later the importance of bread had much diminished, and a high proportion of the diet consisted of meat and ale. Barley and rye bread was replaced by wheat, bacon by beef, and cider by ale. These workers ate better than most wage-earners and peasants, but the trends in caring patterns were general. The chronology of the changes, which were spread over much of the fourteenth century, and the general relationship between diet, production, the market and demography, have, implications for our interpretations of the late medieval period.

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