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How did long term changes in population levels affect economy and society in Europe? - History

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Answer in Brief

How did long term changes in population levels affect economy and society in Europe?

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Europe witnessed a huge rise in its population during the medieval period. There was an estimated rise of around 30 million people from the 10th century to the 13th century. This rise in the population had several economic and social effects.

Economic Effects

1) Establishment of towns: With the advancement of agricultural technologies, the production of food increased. Peasants, thus, felt the need of a place where they could sell their surplus and buy tools and clothes in return. Periodic fairs and small marketing centres started to spring up here and there. Surrounding these centres, other infrastructure developments took place, which, in turn, led to the growth of towns.

2) Organisation of trading activities: Guilds or associations of traders were formed in towns to take care of the quality of goods exchanged in the markets and their prices.

3) Trade routes: With the increased production of food, the search for fresh markets started and so several new trade routes developed. An important example is the route followed by Scandinavian merchants from the North Sea to southern lands.

Social Effects

1) Air of relief for the serfs: Often, serfs fled from the estates and took shelter in the towns. If a lord could not track his serf within a year, then the serf would become a free man.

2) Paid work: In towns, the labour was always offered in exchange of a payment. Tax instead of service was paid by the residents of the town to the land owner. This allowed the serfs and their families to enjoy freedom from the exploitation of the lords.

3) Rise of the fourth order: As the towns grew, a need was felt for skilled labourers like bankers and lawyers. This class did not engage in manual labour and so could not be grouped in the third order of peasants and other craftsmen. Historians believe this was the rise of the fourth order in the European societies.

Concept: Feudal Society and Economy
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NCERT Class 11 History - Themes in World History
Chapter 6 The Three Orders
Exercise | Q 2 | Page 151
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