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27 Jul

Economy in the Early Middle Ages

The claim that the barbarian invasions resulted in the period of general economic and cultural decline turned out to be incorrect. The economic crisis started much earlier and could not be reversed neither by the reforms of Diocletian nor of Constantine the Great.

The barbarian invasions undoubtedly accelerated and deepened the economic crisis which was probably not as severe as it was formerly believed. The emergence of the barbarian kingdoms made traveling less safe which accelerated the collapse of long-distance trade on which based the ancient economy. At the same time also declined the importance of the cities as cultural and trade centers. With exception of few Italian cities which preserved the ancient Roman institutions, monetary economy and trade with the East, the majority of cities in the Early Middle Ages served as administrative centers, royal residences and seats of bishoprics.

Monetary economy gave way to the natural economy. The disappearance of the monetary system in Western Europe greatly affected both trade and progress of economy although the trade with the East did not completely disappeared. Many contemporary sources mention the oriental merchants in first place the Syrians, Jews and Greeks who had their bases in all important ports such as Marseille, Narbonne, Bordeaux and Nantes, while their caravans reached deep into the mainland. They were trading with at that time luxurious goods such as fragrances, spices, silk, jewelry, glass, papyrus, and exotic fruits. However, the possession of the land was of the greatest importance not only during the period of the Early Middle Ages but throughout the Medieval Times, while the majority of Medieval population directly or indirectly depended on agriculture.

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