Statistics about how much time medieval peasants spent working can be misleading, because a lot of what they spent their time on when they weren’t doing fieldwork was still work, e.g. tending their own gardens, making implements and furniture, working on their houses. They had to make most of the things they used themselves. So when “work” was over they didn’t go home and watch TV.
It’s hard to be sure exactly what life was like for preindustrial agricultural workers, but the most convincing evidence that it was very hard was that early mines and factories were easily able to recruit all the workers they needed, despite working conditions we know to have been harsh.
The question of the degree to which enclosure was responsible for the supply of factory workers is one people have debated for a century. The idea that it was was as you can imagine very popular with Marxist historians. Which doesn’t make it false of course. But it does have the same neatness that drives urban legends, and in a place like HN we should be wary of this.
There were in practice a bunch of forces that drove people to work in factories. The rise of international trade, which depressed agricultural prices in comparatively unproductive Europe, was another huge one.
It is an insight.
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