Why Sheep Replaced Peasants


‘As the country recovered in decades following the Black Death landowners tried to restore the old systems, rediscovering old laws of compulsory service that had been forgotten in the good times when England was increasingly moving to a money economy. […]

The old feudal consensus had broken down, and the lords realised that if the peasants were now free form any obligation to them, they were equally free form any obligations to care for the peasants. Thus it was that the peasants came face to face with their greatest natural enemy – sheep.

Labour had become expensive and your average lord could now make more money out of sheep than he could out of his peasants. There was more wool on sheep, for a start, and you could also eat them – with is possible with peasants but socially taboo – so the lords started to throw the expensive, troublesome and uneatable peasants of their land and replace them sheep.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 34-35