Lecture 4 – Medieval Technology and Society II



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Lecture 4 – Medieval Technology and Society II


European Agricultural Revolution (6th – 14th century)

  • plough, horse collar, field rotation, water and windmills

  • Population increase


Technology and Warfare in the Middle Ages

  • Horses, crossbows, ballistae, catapults and trebuchets

  • Lords, mounted knights and agricultural surplus

  • Stirrup and horseback combat

  • Decentralized system of Feudal lords, landless knights and crusades

  • Gunpowder 13th century, cannons 14th century

  • Cannons and guns aided with shift to large centralized states

  • Muskets 1500’s, knights slowly disappeared



Guns and Warfare


  • Warfare and European monarchy, early “arms race”

  • 15th century: artillery overcame advantages of fortifications

  • Artillery increased army sizes, started shift to defensive combat:

    • Similarity of technology and combat advantages

    • Size increase of armies to gain advantage, casulties

    • Building and maintaining defenses

    • Personnel, gunners, powder-makers, gun-smiths, founders, foreign experts

  • Cannons decreased in size over time, pig iron, bronze, cast iron

  • Lighter cannons and Naval combat

  • “Gunpowder revolution” eventually replaced knight and Feudal lord

  • The knight and combat advantages, accuracy and power of guns

  • Large armies with artillery required resources of centralized state

  • By 1600’s infantry armed with handguns and muskets

  • Trace Italienne as a defense against new artillery

  • Local Feudal lords gave way to wealthy centralized states

  • European military technology and ancient hydraulic technology, European military conscription and ancient corvee / slave labor

The Gunpowder Revolution


  • Changes brought about by firearms and artillery were gradual

  • Technical changes in firearms, organization, administration and transport changes in artillery

  • Gradual, hybrid changes: Hussite wars, Jan Zizka, “Wagenburg”

  • Larger Wagenburgs: 180 wagons chained together, 35 large guns

  • Wagenburg gave defense and mobility

  • French: artillery service, procurement and administration, organized personnel, arsenals and magazines

  • Firearms considered humane, surrender only option

  • Siege tactics (earthworks, trenches, parapets, wooden shields)

  • Technical improvements came after military success, success based on logistics (supply, distribution, organization), and tactics

  • Small guns and cumulative effects, logistics of transport, repair and operation for small guns, protecting gunners

Hydraulic Engineering During the Middle Ages


  • Holland and the expansion of European agriculture

  • Settlements in Holland before hydraulic engineering was used

  • Drainage produced flooding, which required more drainage

  • Unexpected consequence of further flooding led to complex hydraulic engineering

  • End 13th century: dikes (embankments to hold in water), dams (blocking rivers), sluices (canal with gate for flow regulation), and drainage canals



Coordination and Control


  • Autonomous water boards, organization, Dutch government

  • No central co-ordination, local organizations collected taxes and performed public works to maintain the waterways

  • Technological development to aid with agriculture in Europe

  • Between 1100 and 1300 hundreds of dikes and dams built

  • External water and internal water, sluices

  • “Polders” units of land at same elevation with common drainage systems, labour and capital intensive

  • Water pumps to drain Polders by 15th century

  • Water boards responsible for: inspection of facilities, repair, supervising and organizing labour and materials, collecting taxes to pay for work, dispute resolution



Pressures on the System


  • 13th century merchant trade, water barriers and transport of goods

  • Demand on wood (ship construction, fuel and buildings), peat consumption for heating, led to: water collection, erosion, dam and canal attrition, flooding, private profit and public costs, decreased tax revenue,

  • Water boards survived until 19th century



General Points


  • Flooding is still a problem in Holland

  • When a technological system is sufficiently complex and tightly coupled, accidents will happen on a regular basis

  • Unintended consequences important to development of technology

  • Significant alteration of the environment before industrial revolution

  • Complex hydrological engineering does not require a large, centralized state


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