By Philip Slavin
Paper given at the European Historical Economics Society Conference, Dublin, 2011
Introduction: To a large degree, it may be argued, that fodder was one of the most important backbones of late‐medieval economy, much dependant on healthy animals, to ensure steady supply of diet for humans. Fodder was the single most important energy generator within the working animal sector, consisting of plough‐horses and oxen. Apart from the practical importance of the topic, however, one should also consider its theoretical significance. First, the study of fodder consumption can be approached from both the production and consumption perspective. In other words, it is equally important to estimate not only the total output of fodder produce, but also the dietary requirements of the animals consuming it. Second, the study of fodder complements a somewhat traditional ‘anthropocentric’ approach to economic history (in particular, the history of food consumption). But the humans were not the only players on the historical stage. The role of animals in the economy was particularly important in the pre‐Industrial period, which can be characterized as the era of ‘organic economy’. Just as humans, animals, too, were prone to various vagaries of Nature, which had profound impact on their diet and health. Despite its obvious importance, however, the subject of fodder resources has attracted very little scholarly attention.