Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The value of late medieval clothing

A review (in the Medieval Review) by Sharon Farmer of Daniel Lord Smail's Legal Plunder: Households and Debt Collection in Late Medieval Europe has this interesting fact about the value of clothing in the 14th and 25th centuries:
Smail also concludes that moveable goods constituted a much larger proportion of a household's value than we might have expected. He estimates that in the average household of the period, moveable goods constituted about three fifths of total household wealth. Most surprising of all is the relative value of clothing items vis-à-vis landed wealth. As Smail states, "the median price of a plot of agricultural land in 1350 could be paid off with a dozen fairly nice tablecloths, and a very high-end houppelande [an outer garment] in 1420 was worth more than double the median price of a field" (60). Because small goods stored so much value, because they could be sold off or given away more quickly than a piece of land, and because they enabled their owners to display their prestige on their backs and at their tables, they came to play a major role in personal and household thesaurization.
Image: from the early Dutch oil painter van der Weyden.

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