Large wall map of Europe
Timeline showing the events that occurred before, during, and after the Middle Ages
Questions to Stimulate Critical Thinking:
Land meant different things to different people. What do you think the land represented to the peasants?
How would improved systems of crop-rotation be a major contribution to their lives and the Modern Age?
The focus of this Middle Ages crop rotation lesson plan is on the improvements in agriculture made by the peasants in the face of all the drama they endured. First, the demise of the Roman Empire led to chaos. Next, under the leadership of Charlemagne - Charles the Great, a period of order followed. Then, after his death, centralized government collapsed. Ultimately, the law fell into the hands of the nobility and a system of government called feudalism was created.
Sustenance was an ongoing problem for the people during the Middle Ages, particularly the peasants. Feudalism did little to make life better for them. Confined, for the most part, to the manor, their personal lives as well as their livelihood were controlled by the lords.
The land was farmed by the peasants. Initially, they had crude farm tools and small farm animals. In addition, because they did not know how to properly rotate their crops, they used a system called two-field crop rotation. This consisted of planting half of the allotted land in a year, usually grain, and leaving the other half idle.
Over time, farmers learned to use a system called three-field crop rotation. Under this system, the land was divided into three parts, with two parts being planted and one part left idle. In addition, more efficient tools were introduced which enabled the peasants to plant crops in the autumn (winter wheat and rye) and also in the spring (legumes). A harvest that used to be scanty and lacked variety was now replaced with an abundance of nutritious crops.
(Note: In addition to the activities listed and the website referenced, use websites, such as YouTube and others to give the students a visual image of the time period.)