Prinsengracht, Amsterdam: the commercial capital of the 17th century. (Photo by Prof. Anne McCants.)
This course will survey the conditions of material life and the changing social and economic relations in medieval Europe with reference to the comparative context of contemporary Islamic, Chinese, and central Asian experiences. The subject covers the emergence and decline of feudal institutions, the transformation of peasant agriculture, living standards and the course of epidemic disease, and the ebb and flow of long-distance trade across the Eurasian system. Particular emphasis will be placed on the study of those factors, both institutional and technological, which have contributed to the emergence of capitalist organization and economic growth in Western Europe in contrast to the trajectories followed by the other major medieval economies.