July 29th 2022

PA.152 | Meat and leather: the exploitation of livestock resources in the Middle Ages in Europe

Parallel Sessions
09:00 - 12:30 - Recherche Sud - Room 0.015
Livestock has been a fundamental resource for humanity since breeding spread during the Neolithic period and until the recent debates about the ecological impact of animal production. Meat and leather answer basic needs such as food and clothing, but they have long been neglected by economic history in favour of cereal production and textile. The two volumes of the Cambridge Economic History of Europe about the Middle Ages devoted specific chapters to agriculture, the woollen industry, mining and metallurgy or “building in stone” but none to cattle or leather. Isolated historians and archaeologists have nevertheless demonstrated how important meat and leather were in the medieval economy. The average meat consumption was probably higher in many European cities in the Middle Ages than in the 19th century1 and the taxes on leather were often among the most profitable. New breeds and new techniques circulated between East and West : the Merinos sheep were probably introduced in Spain from the Near East in the 12th century and leather tawed with alum became associated with the city of Cordoba. However only a few studies have addressed the leather crafts in the Medieval Islamic World because of the scarcity of information from the available sources. Considering the leather production, archaeological artefacts can now enlighten the characteristics of the animals, the technics of production, and the nature of the objects. Historians still investigate meat supply, the leather trade, shoe-making or the numerous products derived from leather (belts, book covers, furniture…). But those research fields often stay apart. We would like to impulse a transversal analysis of that branch by an international group of researchers who are specialised on different geographical areas and on different steps of production, in order to consider various questions. What kind of animals (cows, sheep, goats…) were used and for what kind of production? What were the raw material and resources used during the leather making process? What was the impact of these activities on the urban landscape? How did the techniques circulate? What were the relations between butchers and the crafts that transformed skins or other animal by- products (fat, horn…)? What was the structure of the commercial networks of those products?
L - Industrial Organization
Rivière François - IDHE.S UMR 8533 - LaMOP UMR 8589
Making leather in Portugal in 14th to early 16th centuries – the productive structure of tanning: a dynamic market-oriented model.
Arnaldo Melo - Lab2pt, University of Minho
Leather supplying and leather production in late medieval Italy
Laura Righi - Fondazione per le scienze religiose Giovanni XXIII
The tanners in the county of Dunois according to notarial deeds during the 15th century
Vincent Mouftiez - Université de Tours
Created at the end of the Hundred Years War, the county of Dunois, entrusted to Jean d'Orléans, and its capital Châteaudun, has an activity related to leather work documented by a hundred registers of the tabellionage. Located on the margins of the Chartrain and Orleans this princely seigneury has not been the subject of an in-depth study since the work of Geneviève Duc on the economy of Châteaudun during the Franco-English conflict. Recent archaeological research and some synthesis work complete our information. However, far from the major political and economic centres of the region, such as Orléans and Tours, but also Chartres, or Blois, a lucrative activity is developing that puts the many tanners at the forefront of the county’s economic life. The notarial records allow to understand the work of these craftsmen through the techniques used (the installations, the products used for tanning), the workshops of production and life allowing to bring a better understanding of what was a tannery at the end of the fifteenth century. The work of tanners, from the reception of the skin to its transformation, before being sold to another specialized craftsman (shoemaker, parchment maker, saddler) requires a large supply of animal skin of all kinds (cow, sheep mainly but also game). The deeds make it possible to understand how tanners sourced, mainly from butchers, but also from other craftsmen, and at what price. The tanning work, which took several months, was organized in the city around a specific place, fed by the Loir, at the foot of the comtal castle in a dedicated street. Organized in the city, organized in their activity, tanners were gathered in brotherhood, could take apprentices, whose contracts reveal the economic constraints and the benefits that the apprentice could derive from them. They could invest in the master’s production tool. The deeds show the predominance of Châteaudun and the other villages of the county in the work of leather, craftsmanship which was not absent from the Dune countryside. The acts also make it possible to address the question of the clientele of tanners: craftsmen, merchants. What was also the connection with the county court? Finally, tanners and other leather craftsmen, massively present in the sources, are actors of the economic life of the county. By their position, their wealth, they are at the heart of community relations: lessor or creditors, they have established a network of relationships that goes beyond the simple framework of their profession.
The butcher, the tanner and the supply of skin : conflict and trade around a resource in late medieval cities of the the South of the german Empire
Corentin Hamet - Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)
From the butcher to the shoemaker: leather and hides trade from the Neroni company in Pisa, 1454-1461
Ana Clarinda Cardoso - CITCEM - Universidade do Porto e CHAM/FCSH - Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Portugal)
From the beast to the feast : crafts and animal resources in Rouen (13th-15th c.).
Rivière François - IDHE.S UMR 8533 - LaMOP UMR 8589