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Several technological advances


Tubingen
Tubingen

During the Middle Ages, the productivity of agriculture increased as a result of several technological advances. The proliferation of the heavy-wheeled plow by the 6th century greatly improved production on German lands but also required much animal power—from two to eight oxen per plow. As a result, many farmers gathered in small settlements with common livestock and fields. By the 9th century, the introduction of the collar and harness permitted horses to do the same work as oxen; developments such as the tandem harness (two teams, one behind the other) and the horseshoe improved productivity even more. Undoubtedly the greatest agrarian innovation of the early Middle Ages was the three-field rotation. Common by the 9th century, this method allowed farmers to improve their annual yield and avoid exhausting the soil by rotating crops on three fields—one for a winter wheat, one for a spring crop (such as oats, barley, peas, or beans), and one left unused. An agricultural revolution during the 11th and 12th centuries witnessed the clearing of millions of acres of forests and swamps for cultivation as well as the introduction of the windmill, which harnessed the power of the wind to mill grain or pump water.

The two areas of technological innovation most prominent in late medieval Germany were mining and printing. By the late 15th century, a series of inventions and improved techniques resulted in a fivefold increase in central European mining output. Saxon methods of extracting pure silver from the lead alloy in which it was often found helped expand the money economies of Europe. Increased iron production also meant more and stronger pumps and other machine parts and a related boom in construction work and shipbuilding.

The invention of movable metal type was one of the most significant developments of all human history. Johannes Gutenberg discovered a durable alloy of lead, tin, and antimony that allowed books and other writings to be duplicated in a fraction of the time needed for manuscript copying.

Gutenberg’s Bible, completed around 1455, was the first major work to be printed. Within 50 years, more than 250 cities throughout the empire and Europe had one or more printing shops operating full time. The impact of the printing press on society is still being explored, but it is clear that it touched the lives of many more than the 10 percent of the population who could read. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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