the-marshalsea

anonymous asked:

Hello, do you have any resources on how the financial accounts of a medieval household were handled? It seems that most articles I can dig up require an account at an online history journal to view.

You’re right that it’s pretty tough to dig up specifics about account management–much of what’s going to be useful is in books that can be tough to get a hold of or in online databases. If you’re a student or have a friend who’s a student or works at a university who is willing to let you onto the university’s library’s journal databases, that can be where you’ll find some additional information. Of course, textbooks and journal articles are all academic reading that can be quite dull and tiresome unless you’re really interested in the subject you’re researching. (And despite how interested I may or may not have been on anthropological studies of ghosts, even tireless Pear got bored of reading paper after paper, desperately looking for information I actually wanted.) That said, I don’t own any of the books on this topic specifically, although maybe it’s something for me to look into. My knowledge is pretty basic, but I’ll share and hopefully it’ll get you somewhere.

Who did the account management in a household depended a lot on the standing of the house and thus how many servants it employed:

Common peasant households that had no servants, who were–in essence–the servants, or who could manage to have maybe one or two hired hands, kept their accounts very vigilantly because they had such limited resources to begin with that not keeping careful track of it could mean the difference between food in the winter and starving. The woman of the household managed things even as she also tended children and animals, grew and prepared food, produced goods to sell, lit fires, drew water, and helped in the fields. They trained their children for their roles, and made sure they were to have enough for the times to come.

Merchant households needed to keep track of not only those things the peasants did, but also the apprentices and their training, as well as the guild duties and membership. Again, it was usually the woman taking care of much of this, hiring new servants and training them, including apprentices sometimes! The business had to be carefully accounted for so they could know who they had agreements with, who they sold what to, for how much, how much their supply expenses would be, all out of the same pot of money as where food, clothing, and living necessities came from.

Noble households were managed by either the lady of the house or a steward reported to the lady of the house, depending on the size, social standing, and ability for the household to afford a steward. These households must track even more than the merchants. It became especially complicated when a noble family owned several parcels of land as it would require accounting for the goods produced from each of these other locales. Sometimes a house would be large enough to split into “departments” where the lady of the house would appoint an individual to keep the records for their department and then report those to her. They could include: pantry, buttery, kitchen, poultry, wardrobe, and marshalsea which oversaw expenses such as horses, fodder, and traveling expenses. Some things kept in the accounts by some noble families: number of meals served, the date those meals were served, list of guests at meals, number of loaves sent to the table, how much wine or ale was consumed, lists of fish or meat taken from the stores, daily purchases to supplement provisions at meals, cost of fodder, the day’s total costs, a monthly aggregate of costs, lists of servants, servant disciplinary actions, travel records including tolls and fares, building records and expenses associated with construction. Many times, the lord of the house would be called away to court or crusade and it would be left up to the lady of the house to keep everything running, host dinner to maintain social status, and addition to training the servants (sometimes) and rearing the children (sometimes).

I hope this has helped. There are a few books that are stand-bys, but terribly boring, so try getting them from a library if you can manage it: A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century; A Medieval Miscellany; The Great Household in Late Medieval England. But really, finding articles using university and college databases is your next best option. Sorry Anon, I hope this helps!