Black Satchel: Historical Cookery: #researchtober: 2nd

Here is today's actual #researchtober entry, in the form of a quote and some discussion.

"... an agrarian system based on tenancy is also one whose basic productive processes are under peasant, not landlord, control, for it is the peasant family on the tenant plot which is actually making most of the strategic choices about production and, of course, doing the work. Direct intervention by the landlord is certainly possible, but it is an intrusion from above, against the grain of the labour process; it requires much attention and constant (often coercive) reinforcement, and will only be partially successful."
-- Chris Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages, p. 264.

In context, this is part of a larger discussion of why landlords (for which, read nobility) have tenants at all, rather than servants working land directly under their command, which ties in to media of exchange, and it's a BIG book; I'm not going through all of it here.

The bit that interests me is that this gives a comprehensible mechanism for the slow adoption of new crops and agricultural techniques. The ard plough took a very long time to be replaced by the moldboard plough, despite it being an obviously superior technology - on the level of replacing the horse with the tractor, and maybe more so, because the horse can do some things the tractor can't, while the ard plough is straight up inferior. But if the decision to change over is being taken by one individual family at a time, who have to justify the cost of the new - more expensive - plough over the one that's getting the job done fine where they are on the land they've been farming for generations, then it makes a lot more sense for them to be slow about that. The fact that you can use it to farm land that hasn't been accessible before is immaterial to them.

Likewise, on the post-Columbian-exchange adoption of the potato, it's clearly a better and more efficient crop than wheat, or maslin, or whatever you've been growing to date. But it's also weird and new and you don't know how to grow it, and unless 'is Lordship REALLY insists, you're going to keep doing what you know will have food on the table in February.

This is one of those things that's kind of obvious when it's written down, but until you realise the scale of the decision, the slow progress is very hard to understand.