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Why did medieval villagers buy earthenware? Pottery and consumer behaviour in the Valencian countryside (1280–1450)

  • LUIS ALMENAR FERNÁNDEZ (a1)

Abstract

Recent scholarship has suggested that villagers participated in the general proliferation of goods that seems to have occurred in late medieval Europe. How and why they did so is far from clear. This article addresses this issue through a case study of pottery consumption (with particular attention to earthenware) in late medieval rural Valencia. A quantitative analysis of 251 probate inventories (1280s–1450s) supports the argument that not only did medieval villagers acquire more of these goods, but also that the reasons behind such a process challenge many of the traditional interpretations of changes in consumption patterns.

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References

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ENDNOTES

1 Braudel, F., Capitalism and material life, 1400–1800 (London, 1974), 373.

2 Examples can be found from all over early modern Europe, in England, Iberia, Italy and the Netherlands. See Weatherill, L., Consumer behaviour and material culture in Britain, 1660–1760, 2nd edn (London, 1996), 75–9; Overton, M. et al. , Production and consumption in English households, 1600–1750 (London, 2004), 87120; Claverías, B. Moreno, Consum i condicions de vida a la Catalunya moderna: el Penedés, 1670–1790 (Vilafranca del Penedés, 2007); Palencia, F. C. Ramos, Pautas de consumo y mercado en Castilla, 1750–1850: Economía familiar en Palencia al final del Antiguo Régimen (Madrid, 2010); Malanima, P., Il lusso dei contadini: Consumi e industrie nelle campagne toscane del Sei e Settecento (Bologna, 1990); de Vries, J., ‘Peasant demand patterns and economic development: Friesland, 1550–1750’, in Parker, W. N. and Jones, E. L. eds., European peasants and their markets: essays in agrarian economic history (Princeton, 1975), 205–68.

3 Dyer, C., An age of transition? Economy and society in England in the later Middle Ages (Oxford, 2005); Mazzi, M. S. and Raveggi, S., Gli uomini e le cose nelle campagne fiorentine del Quattrocento (Firenze, 1983); Furió, A., ‘Producción, pautas de consumo y niveles de vida: una introducción historiográfica’, in Ojeda, E. López ed., Comer, beber, vivir: consumo y niveles de vida en la Edad Media hispánica: XXI Semana de Estudios Medievales (Logroño, 2011), 1756; Garcia-Oliver, F., ‘Pautes de consum i nivells de vida de la pagesia catalana: la casa i l'interior domèstic’, in Masclans, J. Bolòs i, Mòdol, A. Jarne and Rius, E. Vicedo eds., Condicions de vida al món rural: Cinqué congrés sobre sistemes agraris, organització social i poder local (Lleida, 2006), 4766; García Marsilla, J. V., ‘Imatges a la llar: cultura material i cultura visual a la València del segles XIV i XV’, Recerques: Història, Economia i Cultura 43 (2001), 163–94; J. V. García Marsilla, ‘La vida de las cosas: el mercado de objetos de segunda mano en la Valencia bajomedieval’, in A. Furió and F. Garcia-Oliver Garcia eds., Pautes de consum i nivells de vida al món rural medieval, in press; P. Ortí and Ll. To, ‘Serfdom and standards of living of the Catalan peasantry before and after the Black Death of 1348’, in Cavaciocchi, S. ed., Schiavitù e servaggio nell'economia europea, secc. XI–XVIII: serfdom and slavery in the European economy, eleventh–eighteenth centuries: atti della ‘Quarantacinquesima Settimana di studi’ (Florence, 2014), 155–72; Masclans, J. Bolòs and Sànchez-Boira, I., Inventaris i encants conservats a l'Arxiu Capitular de Lleida (segles XIV–XVI), 3 vols. (Lleida, 2014); Laliena, C. and Lafuente, M. eds., Consumo, comercio y transformaciones culturales en la Baja Edad Media: Aragón, siglos XIV–XV (Zaragoza, 2016).

4 The term ‘earthenware’ will be used to identify earthen tableware or table service items, as a synonym for ‘ceramics’, and as opposed to other products made of clay, particularly cooking chattels and storage containers. ‘Pottery’ will be employed to name all these goods by their material, that is, clay.

5 Key findings in tableware innovations in the early modern period can be found in Weatherill, L., The growth of the pottery industry in England, 1660–1815 (New York, 1986); Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 34–8; Shammas, C., The pre-industrial consumer in England and America, 2nd edn (Oxford, 2008), 190222; and Overton et al., Production and consumption, 102–08. For the later Middle Ages, see Dyer, An age of transition?, 141–3; Gaimster, D. and Nenk, B., ‘English households in transition c. 1450–1550’, in Gaimster, D. and Stamper, P. eds., The age of transition: the archaeology of English culture, 1400–1600 (Oxford, 1997), 173–9; Alexandre-Bidon, D., Une archéologie du goût: céramique et consommation (Paris, 2005); Goldthwaite, R., ‘The economic and social world of Italian Renaissance maiolica’, Renaissance quarterly 42 (1989), 132; Goldthwaite, R., ‘The empire of things: consumer demand in Renaissance Italy’, in Kent, F. W. and Simons, P. eds., Patronage, art, and society in Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 1987), 153–75; Welch, E., Shopping in the Renaissance: consumer cultures in Italy, 1400–1600 (New Haven and London, 2005); Ajmar, M., ‘Talking pots: strategies for producing novelty and the consumption of painted pottery in Renaissance Italy’, in Fantoni, M., Matthew, L. C. and Matthews-Grieco, S. F. eds., The art market in Italy, fifteenth–seventeenth centuries (Modena, 2003), 5564; Crespí, M. Barceló and Bordoy, G. Rosselló, Terrissa: Dades documentals per a l'estudi de la ceràmica mallorquina del segle XV (Barcelona, 1996). On the elasticity of pottery as a consumer commodity, see Blake, H., ‘Technology, supply or demand?’, Medieval Ceramics 4 (1980), 312.

6 Kowaleski, M., ‘A consumer economy’, in Horrox, R. and Ormrod, M. eds., A social history of England, 1200–1500 (Cambridge, 2005), 239.

7 Broadberry, S. et al. , British economic growth, 1270–1870 (New York, 2015), 279306; Zulaica, F., Fluctuaciones económicas en un período de crisis: Precios y salarios en Aragón en la Baja Edad Media (1300–1430) (Zaragoza, 1994); Furió, A., ‘Les variations de la consummation paysanne: salaires réels, revenus familiaux et niveaux de vie dans le monde rural médiéval’, in Denjean, C., Sources sérielleset prix au Moyen Âge (Toulouse, 2009), 149–55; A. Furió, ‘Le consommateur paysan, agent des mutations economiques? Le cas de la peninsule iberique au bas moyen âge’, in G. Ferrand and J. Petrowiste eds., Le necessaire et le superflu: le paysan consommateur dans l'Europe medievale et moderne: Actes des XXXVIes Journées internationales d'histoire de l'abbaye de Flaran, 17 et 18 octobre 2014, in press.

8 Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 200: ‘There were many reasons why people wanted to own material goods, some practical, some financial, some psychological’; Porter, R., ‘Consumption: disease of the consumer society?’, in Brewer, J. and Porter, R. eds., Consumption and the world of goods (London and New York, 1993), 71: ‘We must not think of the consumer society simply in terms of the licence to acquire more. It was, perhaps more crucially, the development of new values which helped people to transcend the very licence to acquire more.’

9 Overton et al., Production and consumption, 165.

10 English scholarship on probate inventories has also presented material proving the low prices of earthenware. See Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 110–11; Weatherill, The growth of the pottery industry, 92–5.

11 Shammas, The pre-industrial consumer, 209–16; Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 157–9.

12 Dyer, An age of transition?, 141.

13 Valldecabres, R. ed., El cens de 1510: Relació de focs valencians ordenada per les corts de Montsó (Valencia, 2002).

14 The term ‘probate inventories’ is particular to the English legal system of probating, although it is widely employed to describe the same category of legal document across Europe, in which Valencian inventories also fit, as well as the Catalan ones. For inventories in medieval Valencia and Catalonia, see Fernández, L. Almenar, ‘Los inventarios post mortem de la Valencia medieval: una fuente para el estudio del consumo doméstico y los niveles de vida’, Anuario de Estudios Medievales 47, 2 (2017), 533–66; Bolòs Masclans and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants, vol. 1, 42–4 and 78–80.

15 Almenar Fernández, ‘Los inventarios post mortem de la Valencia medieval’.

16 Ibid.

17 These elements are common to other European inventories, see references in Overton et al. Production and consumption, 14–19.

18 These 251 inventories are scattered across more than 400 notarial records consulted for this study, coming from 5 archives: Arxiu Municipal de València, Arxiu de Protocols del Corpus Christi de València, Arxiu del Regne de València, Arxiu Municipal d'Alcoi, and Arxiu Històric Notarial de Morella (hereafter AMV, APCCV, ARV, AMA, and AHNM). These consist of all notarial records preserved in the AMV, AMA and AHNM in this period, as well as in the APCCV until 1400 and the ARV until 1350. Inventories of the APCCV between 1401–1450 come from the volumes of the notaries Doménec Barreda (1407–1445), Bertomeu Matoses (1407–1450) and Jaume Vinader (1416–1450). In the case of the ARV between 1350 and 1450, inventories can be found in the notarial records of Arcusio de Collent (1362–1380), and Andreu Julià (1401–1429).

19 Medieval scholarship on southern Europe relying on significant numbers of inventories rarely reaches a hundred of examples. For the case of southern France, see Marandet, M-C., ‘L’équipement de la cuisine en Toulousain à la fin du Moyen Age d'après les inventaires et les testaments’, Archéologie du Midi médiéval 15–16 (1997), 269–86 [48 inventories]; Herbeth, P., ‘Les ustensiles de cuisine en Provence médiévale (XIIIe–XVe s.), Médiévales 5 (1983), 8993 [49 examples]; Coulet, N., ‘L’équipament de la cuisine à Aix-en-Provence au XVe siècle’, Annales du Midi: revue archéologique, historique et philologique de la France méridionale 103, 193 (1991), 517 [60 inventories]. For Italy, Mazzi and Raveggi, Gli uomini e le cose explored 60 inventories of diverse nature, though not quantitatively. For Catalonia, , Codina, J. and Sales, N., Els santboians de 1490: Cóm es vivia fa 500 anys a la vila de Sant Boi de Llobregat (Barcelona, 1990) systematises the content of 46 inventories. M. Dolors Santandreu Soler, ‘La vila de Berga a l'Edat Mitjana: la família dels Berga’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Universitat de Barcelona, 2006), explores some 40 inventories, but not in a quantitative manner. P. Benito i Monclús, ‘Casa rural y niveles de vida en el entorno de Barcelona a fines de la Edad Media’, paper presented at the conference ‘Pautes de Consum i Nivells de Vida al Món Rural Medieval’, Valencia (2008), available at http://www.uv.es/consum/benito.pdf [updated 27 September 2016] relies on 22 inventories. Notable is the recent work by I. Sànchez-Boira, ‘Aproximació als espais i objectes a les cases urbanes de Lleida des del final del segle XIV fins al segle XVI: del món real a la representació de les imatges. Una mirada interdisciplinària des de les fonts documentals per a l'aprenentatge de la història’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Universitat de Lleida, 2016), which explores 177 inventories (114 of them were transcribed and studied in Bolòs Masclans and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants). In Majorca, , Crespí, M. Barceló, Elements materials de la vida quotidiana a la Mallorca baixmedieval (part forana) (Palma, 1994) based her study of 28 inventories. Of special note, Barceló Crespí and Rosselló Bordoy, Terrissa, explore 223 inventories, although in a wide chronology (1345–1575). In northern Europe, as mentioned, probate inventories are scarce or non-existent before 1500. See van der Woude, A. M. and Schuurman, A., ‘Introduction’, in van der Woude, A. M. and Schuurman, A. eds., Probate inventories: a new source for the historical study of wealth, material culture and agricultural development (Utrecht, 1980), 4.

20 This poses a significant difference to the English case, since the employment of the terms ‘peasant’, ‘husbandman’ or ‘farmer’ conveyed both legal and wealth status. On the term llaurador in European context, see Viciano, P., Els peus que calciguen la terra: Els llauradors del País Valencià a la tardor de l'Edat Mitjana (Valencia, 2012), 1930.

21 Rodríguez, E. Guinot, ‘Morvedre: Història d'una vila valenciana medieval’, Braçal 35–6 (2007), 95134; Pérez, V. Royo, Vilafranca (1239–1412): Conflictes, mediacions de pau i arbitratges en una comunitat rural valenciana (Castelló de la Plata, 2016); Pérez, V. Royo, ‘Las industrias rurales en Vilafranca al final de la Edad Media’, in Morte, C. Villanueva, Miñarro, D. Reinaldos, Chacón, J. Maíz and Medina, I. Calderón eds., Nuevas investigaciones de jóvenes medievalistas (Lorca, 2010), 194, n. 1; Abad, J. Torró, La formació d'un espai feudal: Alcoi de 1245 a 1305 (Valencia, 1992); Furió, A., ‘La ciudad y la huerta: una relación de interdependencia’, in Romero, J. and Francés, M. eds., La huerta de Valencia: un paisaje cultural con futuro incierto (Valencia, 2012), 3354. The horta is the only area for which more inventories could still be preserved beyond the ones studied here (only in the period 1400–1450). It is necessary to stress that the existence of large population centres with a significant presence of llauradors is a feature of the kingdom of Valencia. For instance, Castelló de la Plana, one of its most populated towns, had more than 5,000 dwellers in the first quarter of the fifteenth century, most of which were llauradors. Even municipal elites here came from this social rank (see Viciano, P., Poder municipal i grup dirigent local al País Valencià. La vila de Castelló de la Plana (1375–1500) (Valencia, 1997)).

22 Guinot Rodríguez, ‘Morvedre’, 95–134.

23 Elum, P. López, Los orígenes de la cerámica de Manises y Paterna (1285–1335) (Manises, 1985).

24 François, and García, M. Mesquida, Un horno medieval de cerámica/Un four médiéval de poitier: El Testar del Moli, Paterna (Valencia) (Madrid, 1987), 3788.

25 In England, these treen (wooden) wares seem to have been predominant until the seventeenth century (Overton et al., Production and consumption, 102–8; see also Dyer, An age of transition, 141). According to Pardailhe-Galabrun, this was also the case for Paris until the 1720s (as quoted in de Vries, J., The industrious revolution: consumer behaviour and the household economy, 1650 to the present (Cambridge, 2008), 132).

26 Elum, P. López, La producción cerámica de lujo en la Baja Edad Media: Manises y Paterna. Los materiales de los recipientes para su uso alimentario: su evolución y cambios según los inventarios notariales (Valencia, 2006), 44.

27 This seems to have been a common characteristic for Catalonia, where large clay jars appear to have had a minor place with respect to barrels, as inventories published in Benito i Monclús, ‘Casa rural’, reveal.

28 Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 88.

29 Ibid.; Shammas, The pre-industrial consumer, 184.

30 Shammas, The pre-industrial consumer, 182, 184.

31 Ibid., 182. See Mellor, M., ‘A synthesis of middle and late Saxon, medieval and early post medieval pottery in the Oxford region’, Oxoniensia 59 (1994), 93150.

32 Overton et al., Production and consumption, 102–8; Weatherill, Consumer behaviour, 111; Dyer, An age of transition?, 141.

33 Coll Conesa, La cerámica valenciana, 57.

34 De Vries, The industrious revolution, 132.

35 Published material from various locations in the Crown of Aragon reveals a scarce presence in comparison with earthenware. See J. V. García Marsilla, ‘La vida de las cosas: el mercado de objetos de segunda mano en la Valencia bajomedieval’, paper presented at the conference ‘Pautes de Consum i Nivells de Vida al Món Rural Medieval’, Valencia (2008), available at http://www.uv.es/consum/marsilla.pdf [updated 27 September 2016]; Bolòs Masclans and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants; Morte, C. Villanueva and Espinach, G. Navarro, ‘“Subastas y tasaciones de bienes” en la Zaragoza del siglo XV’, in Muñoz, J. A. Sesma and Corbera, C. Laliena eds., De la escritura a la historia: Aragón, siglos XIII–XV: estudios dedicados a la profesora Cristina Monterde Albiac (Zaragoza, 2014), 45108.

36 Hamilton, E. J., Money, prices and wages in Valencia, Aragon and Navarre, 1351–1600 (Cambridge, 1936), 76.

37 Hatcher, J., ‘Unreal wages: long-run living standards and the “Golden Age” of the fifteenth century’, in Dodds, B. and Liddy, C. eds., Commercial activity, markets and entrepreneurs in the Middle Ages: essays in honour of Richard Britnell (Woodbridge, 2011), 124; Kitsikopoulos, H., ‘Standards of living and capital formation in pre-plague England: a peasant budget model’, Economic History Review 53, 2 (2000), 237–61.

38 That is the case in Valencia, Catalonia and Majorca, as well as in Italy. See the examples in S. Vercher Lletí, L'habitat i els interiors domèstics al món rural Valencià de 1371 a 1500, unpublished work; Bolòs Masclans and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants; Barceló Crespí, Elements materials; Mazzi and Raveggi, Gli uomini e le cose.

39 For the public sales in the Crown of Aragon, see García Marsilla, J. V., Espinach, G. Navarro and Vela, C., ‘Pledges and auctions: the second-hand market in the late medieval Crown of Aragon’, in Il commercio al minute: Domanda e offerta tra economia formale e informale (sec. XIII–XVIII): Atti 46a Settimana di Studi di Prato (Firenze, 2015), 295317. See also Bolòs and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants, vol. 1, 81–107.

40 These auctions are scattered across some 40 notarial records from the APCCV (Valencia) and the AHNM (Vilafranca). For the case of the APCCV, prices come from the records of Doménec Barreda (1407–1445), Bertomeu Matoses (1407–1450) and Jaume Vinader (1416–1450). Prices from Vilafranca are found in the records of Andreu Navarro (1373–1391), Antoni Esquerdo (1397–1428), Jaume Roig (1408–1420), Lluís de la Gerola (1420–1425) and Martí Gossà (1422–1432).

41 Higher prices in Vilafranca may well be due to transport costs. Although there were production centres close to this locality as early as in the thirteenth century (Boixar, for instance, just 40 km away); see Coll Conesa, La cerámica valenciana, 55), the landscape of this region (Maestrat) is characterised by its high mountains. This might have complicated regular trade and increased the final price of these products.

42 For prices of storage jars, see Escrig, A. Llibrer, ‘Relaciones protoindustriales en la producción cerámica: Manises y Paterna en la segunda mitad del siglo XV’, Medievalismo: Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Estudios Medievales 24 (2014), 214. For the other prices, see López Elum, La producción cerámica, 17.

43 Price evidence from other almonedes in Catalonia and Aragon show prices of between 1d and 3d per earthenware piece in most cases. See Bolòs Masclans and Sànchez-Boira, Inventaris i encants; and C. Villanueva Morte and G. Navarro Espinach, ‘Subastas y tasaciones de bienes’.

44 Hamilton, Money, 55.

45 Viciano, Els peus que calciguen la terra, 211–12, refining prior data from Furió, A., ‘Estructures fiscals, pressió impositiva i reproducció econòmica al País Valencià a la baixa Edat Mitjana’, in Sánchez, M. and Furió, A. eds., Corona, municipis i fiscalitat en la Baixa Edat Mitjana (Lleida, 1997), 495525.

46 Furió, ‘Estructures fiscals’, 495–526.

47 Conesa, J. Coll, La cerámica valenciana: Apuntes para una síntesis (Valencia, 2009), 76–7.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid.

50 Conesa, J. Coll, ‘La producción cerámica medieval: un balance entre el mundo islámico y el feudal. El caso del área valenciana’, in Porras, A. García ed., Arqueología de la producción en época medieval (Granada, 2013), 211.

51 García, M. Mesquida, La vajilla azul en la cerámica de Paterna (Paterna, 2002), 43111; Coll Conesa, La cerámica valenciana, 71–2.

52 Ajmar, ‘Talking pots’, 55.

53 C. Fairchilds, ‘The production and marketing of populuxe goods in eighteenth-century Paris’, in Brewer and Porter eds., Consumption and the world of goods, 228–48.

54 Berenguer Palau possessed in 1397 un arquibanch vell, en lo qual eren les coses seguentsUn grealet (‘An old opening bench, wherein the following things were found … One small bowl’). AHNM, Antoni Izquierdo, 74, 1 October 1397.

55 En la entrada … Deu scudelles de terra en lo scudeler (‘In the entrance … Ten earthen bowls in the bowler’). APCCV, Jaume Vinader, 9.531, 28 January 1438; En la entrada … Tres greals de Màlequa migancers (‘In the entrance … Three lustre bowls of medium size’). APCCV, Domènec Barreda, 6.430, 23 January 1435.

56 Sis creals de terra penjats en la parets [sic] (‘Six earthen little bowls hung on the wall’). APCCV, Jaume Vinader, 9.540, 6 July 1450.

57 APCCV, Domènec Barreda, 6.420, 17 May 1418. En la entrada … Ítem, foren atrobats en la paret sobre lo portal de la cambra xiiii greals e tabachs de terra penjats (‘In the entrance … Item, there were found on the wall over the chamber's entry 14 hung earthen bowls and platters’). APCCV, Jaume Vinader, 9.529, 9 September 1434.

58 En la entrada … xxxxvi peces de terra entre greals e scudelles e terraces de Mèliqua, que staven penjades en la paret (‘In the entrance … 46 earthen pieces, namely lustre bowls and jugs, which were hung from the wall’). APCCV, Domènec Barreda, 6.420, 17 May 1418.

59 Barceló Crespí, Elements materials, 17–20.

60 See examples in endnotes 49, 51 and 52.

61 En la cambra … Dos greals grans de Manizes (‘In the chamber … Two big lustre bowls’). APCCV, Jaume Vinader, 9.540, 22 June 1450.

62 En la cambra alta … Unes tauletes de fust ab terra ab son stoig (‘In the high chamber … Some wooden bowls with earthenware with its case’). AHNM, Antoni Izquierdo, 74, 1 October 1397.

63 Overton et al. Production and consumption, 168. The influence of towns should be considered alongside that of noble courts, and is a topic that requires more research. C. Dyer has speculated on many occasions about the well-known idea of social emulation especially (although not solely) towards this social group (Dyer, An age of transition?, 132–43). Work on this issue in Valencia has been developed by Marsilla, J. Vicente Garcia, La taula del senyor duc: Alimentació, gastronomia i etiqueta a la cort dels ducs reials de Gandia (Gandia, 2010). For other cases in Iberia, see Larráyoz, F. Serrano, La mesa del rey: Cocina y régimen alimentario en la corte de Carlos III el Noble de Navarra (1411–1425) (Pamplona, 2002).

64 On the economic activity of rural elites in Valencia, see Romero, F. Aparisi, ‘Village entrepreneurs: the economic foundations of Valencian rural elites in the fifteenth century’, Agricultural History 89, 3 (2015), 336–57.

65 Dyer, An age of transition?, 137–9; Claverías, B. Moreno, ‘Luxury, fashion and peasantry: the introduction of new commodities in rural Catalonia, 1670–1790’, in Lemire, B. ed., The force of fashion in politics and society: global perspectives from early modern to contemporary times (Farnham, 2010), 91–2. See also Margairaz, D., ‘City and country: home, possessions, and diet, western Europe 1600–1800’, in Trentmann, F. ed., The Oxford handbook of the history of consumption (Oxford, 2012), 193.

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