My research considers how individuals and societies as well as markets and industries adjusted to constantly, and often cataclysmically, changing economic and social circumstances in the Middle Ages. I have worked (collaboratively with John Langdon) on the long-standing debate about grain storage in medieval England and also on the composition of rural labour.
I am currently pursuing two main projects. The first, based on my doctoral work, examines how English peasants, utilizing specific comparative advantages in regulatory loopholes and suitable soil types, bred and raised horses as a way to augment the diminishing returns of arable farming, while other project looks at the changing landscape of economic opportunities available to women, particularly in the dairy industry, in late medieval Europe.
Current research projects
Horse Power: How Medieval England Was Supplied with Working Animals, 1250-1350
This project, based on my doctoral work, looks at how the English economy was supplied with the animals during a particularly important period of England’s (and indeed Europe’s) commercialization from 1250 to 1350. The book proposes an alternative to traditional models of medieval economic growth that emphasize capital investment, specialization and aggressive marketing strategies. Rather it argues that the horse trade was an ‘economy of makeshift’ and suited what we would call today ‘hard-scrabble’ agriculture. While it allowed a diversification in activities that expanded peasants’ opportunities for more productive agriculture and increased interaction with markets, a chronic lack of investment meant that there was little progress in terms of stock improvement, technology or marketing which increasingly placed a ceiling on productivity and eventually acted as a drag on levels of commercialization. This is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences that has relevance not only for societies of the preindustrial past but also for many developing economies today.
Managing Milk, Making a Living: Dairying and Dairypeople in Medieval Europe, 1250-1450
This project explores how environmental shocks such as the Great Famine of 1315-17 and the Black Death of 1349 as well as new institutional conditions, brought on by the decline of serfdom, led to the shift of a central English agricultural industry from the seigniorial sector (landlords and their properties) to the domain of emerging peasant entrepreneurialism. While focusing on England, the project also incorporates a comparative European framework. The project has significant implications for trends in women’s work and economic agency, informing the debate concerning European economies after the Black Death and whether they offered women greater economic opportunities than earlier periods which informs our understanding of economic development and social change in pre-industrial Europe as well as overall trends in economic and demographic growth. The availability of work and remuneration received contributed to family incomes and into future demographic growth, a notion hearkening back to the classical economists, especially Malthus, as changes in opportunities for labourers or entrepreneurs were critical reflections of the way that the medieval society and economy were responding to new conditions.
EH103 Making Economic History Count
EH237 Theories and Evidence in Economic History
EH482 Pre-Modern Paths of Growth: Europe and the Wider World, 11th to 19th Centuries
- “Storage in medieval England: the evidence from purveyance accounts, 1295-1349” (co-authored with John Langdon) The Economic History Review. Volume 64, Issue 4, November 2011, Pages: 1242–1265
- “Transport and Transport Technology in Medieval England” (co-authored with John Langdon). History Compass. Volume 9, Issue 11, October 2011, Pages: 864–875
- “The Horse: England’s Sacred Beast? The Medieval Roots of Horsemeat Aversion in England” History Today Vol. 63, No. 6 (June 2013), 31-36.
You can download Dr Claridge's CV here [PDF]