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In A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Chapter 4, Barbara W. Tuchman writes:

The governing fact was that medieval organization by this time [i.e., the 14th century] had passed to a predominantly money economy. Armed forces were no longer primarily feudal levies serving under a vassal’s obligation who went home after forty days; they were recruited bodies who served for pay.

This is in the context of a discussion about war, how it was conducted and, to the point, how it was paid for by the parties that initiated it (i.e., the kings).

What does she mean by this?

I understand that the basic message is that soldiers now were for hire, needed to be paid a salary and the money had to come from somewhere, which created its own set of problems.

But the phrasing sounds as if something deeper was going on: some currents sweeping across society, a change in how human affairs were structured and that somehow had something to do with the flow of money.

Later in the book, Tuchman mentions that around this time Constantinople was going through the same processes operating in the West, among which "feudal service inadequately replaced by a money economy." The way she speaks of it, it is as if it is something bigger: the money economy. But as opposed to what other kind of economy?

So is this a thing, i.e., that money becomes much more of a driver of human interactions in this period, replacing... well, what? If yes, does the phenomenon have a name? Has it been written about anywhere, like some book about fiscal history that I've never heard about?

It seems that the phrase itself ("rise of the money economy") was flagged as early on as 1944 as a kind of shibboleth invoked by historians to explain all sorts of transformations in the Middle Ages. At least according to this paper: Postan, M. M. 1944. “The Rise of a Money Economy.” The Economic History Review 14 (2): 123–34.

Or am I just reading too much into this paragraph?

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    For starters, Google "Bullion Famine". Around the 4th Century or so A.D. most European precious metal seams above "the water line" - maximum depth which the technology could pump dry - began to run out. Yet the centuries old stream of precious metals to the East, to purchase silk and spice, continued largely unabated. This was likely a significant factor in fall of the Roman Empire, and development of Feudalism - substituting labour for specie as a dominant "currency of transaction". Link Jun 18 at 22:18
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    Prior economies worked on food and labor; subsequent economies increasingly relied on wages and money. BHP mentions food rent and explains it briefly; might help with you question.
    – MCW
    Jun 18 at 22:54
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    Thanks! At the same time, it seems that the phrase itself ("rise of the money economy") was flagged as early on as 1944 as a kind of shibboleth invoked by historians to explain all sorts of transformations in the Middle Ages. At least according to this paper: Postan, M. M. 1944. “The Rise of a Money Economy.” The Economic History Review 14 (2): 123–34.
    – Willow
    Jun 18 at 23:38
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    Not sure what I'm missing but I feel like the answer is right there in the question. The money economy (capitalism) replaced feudalism. If you understand the basic definition of feudalism, you understand that money played an almost negligible role in daily life when compared to everything after.
    – Brian Z
    Jun 19 at 12:46
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    @Brian Z: But a money economy doesn't necessarily require capitalism (though I'd argue that practical capitalism requires a money economy). Capitalism developed several centuries after the 14th.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 19 at 15:54
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I wrote this, then deleted it because it doesn't name the process and names were what the OP asked for. But no other (better) answer is around so far:

Traditionally, the feudal "contract" between peasants and the nobility often specified non-monetary goods and services, e.g.:

  • The peasant had to work so-and-so-many days on the lord's fields in harvest time. During those days, he was entitled to a midday meal and a certain amount of beer.
  • The peasant had to deliver a specified number of eggs and live chickens on a certain date.
  • The peasant had to use the lord's mill, and the miller would retain a specified percetage of the flour as a fee.

Having specified goods in the contract would lock economic patterns in place. A lord (or a peasant) could not change crops, because the duties were geared to the growing pattern of just one crop.

Once money became more common, those goods and services were replaced by monetary payments. This was a long process, and it differed from region to region.

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