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Archive for January 2015

Price of Armour in Medieval England

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On the History Stack Exchange site some one asked (I paraphrase) “Was chain mail expensive”. I replied giving some price data found on the internet. This reply received a significant number of up-votes but then a commenter (with very high feedback score) criticised my post for not answering the question “is it expensive”, and suggesting that my answer would be a basis for answering that question.

Now as I had given data for the pay of a labourer in the period any reader could with a little effort compare the annual income of a labourer with the price data given. So only laziness is an explanation of not seeing that one could apply ones own criteria to expensive to this data. Also the site linked to also had a lot more income and price data that could be used (but relying on links on stack exchanged is considered an no-no).

Any-way here is a slightly modified version of that post:

You will find some cost/price data here: List of Prices in  Medieval England

Image of the Armour data:medieval prices

Expensive is a relative and subjective term, the best that can be done to answer the question as asked is to compare the prices with typical incomes/pay. For such a we find that a labourer would earn 1-4 pence per day (the lower pay is earlier the higher later medieval times), and a banneret was getting 4s/day (1316). Alternatively a rough conversion factor of about 1000 between prices in the mid 14th C and today could be used but it would have to be treated with extreme caution as wages and  prices structures were very different then. This could be summarised as mail (armour in general) was expensive compared to the income of a labourer and not when compared to the income of an earl. There would also be a range of prices for differing quality and used etc. A possibly good comparison good today might be a car, where a drivable old-banger can be had for less than ~£1,000 and at the top end prices exceed £1,000,000.

Currency: L – pounds, s – shillings, d – pence. 12 pence = 1 shilling, 20 shillings = 1 pound

The sources:

[3] Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Christopher Dyer,
Cambridge University Press, 1989

[4] English Weapons & Warfare, 449-1660, A. V. B. Norman and Don
Pottinger, Barnes & Noble, 1992 (orig. 1966)

[5] The Armourer and his Craft from the XIth to the XVIth Century,
Charles ffoulkes, Dover, 1988 (orig. 1912)

[6] “The Cost of Castle Building: The Case of the Tower at Langeais,”
Bernard Bachrach, in The Medieval Castle: Romance and Reality, ed.
Kathryn Reyerson and Faye Powe, Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1984

[7] The Knight in History, Frances Gies, Harper & Row, New York, 1984

Written by CaptainBlack

January 20, 2015 at 10:12

Posted in Blogroll