population and food production in the middle ages

(no name) ((no email))
Tue, 27 Sep 1994 08:15:02 EDT

In Dan Foss' recent discussion of food production and population in the
middle ages in Europe he forgot to factor in one major factor: climate.
During the Roman era, Europe enjoyed salubrious climates, warm enough
for wine production in Britain. By about 500 CE the climate had begun
to cool in Northern Europe and become much wetter. This had two effects.
1. It became harder to store food during the winter. Food, especially
grains, tended to rot or germinate. Wheat was particularly prone to
developing ergots (which produce LSD), which is likely the cause
of much of the high incidences of dropsy (directly due to LSD addiction),
dwarfism (the effect of LSD on pregnant mothers), St. Anthony's fire
(another effect of LSD ingestion), and the fantastic art produced in
the late middle ages by all those tripping artists.
2. With shorter growing seasons, wetter summers, and cooler temperatures,
it is probable that the production per unit area significantly decreased
during the middle ages, even if the technological improvements allowed
better ploughing.
The result of this would have been that there was less food for the
noble class to exploit during the middle ages, especially during the
period from 1000-1400.

There may have also been other side effects from these climatic shifts,
such as increased rates of other diseases, like TB or influenza, but
these have not been mentionned in the literature with which I am
familiar. Certainly living conditions were likely worse for the average
European in the middle ages than during the Roman periods. This would
have affected average life span, probably to a significant degree.