This paper examines the intensive agricultural system in Iceland during the Medieval Warm Period in terms of economic rule of wealthy merchant-farmers, integration of large-scale cattle production and broad-based subsistence economy supporting specialized sheep rearing and yielding surplus wool for export, and smallholders’s participation in domestic credit exchanges with links to foreign trade. Second, the paper explores subsequent disintensification and a change to a farming system emphasizing sheep reared for efficient milk and meat production, the rise of rent-tenure, communal property rights and tributary systems, as well as emphasis on fishing in context of developing ecclesiastical institutions, colonial relations with Norway and the onset of the ‘Little Ice Age’.
However substantial the effect of the Medieval Warm Period may have been in northern Europe around 1000-1200, medieval Scandinavia was not exactly a place of plenty: the harshness of climatic conditions did still have a profound impact on food supplies, raising the need for alternative solutions. The sagas show that, in addition to practical responses, Old Norse people could resort to magic, to their traditional pagan gods, but also to the powers of the new Christian faith to fight the ever-looming threat of hunger that had earlier shaped their idea of the afterlife and of the end of the world.
The period of the Catholic Church began in the middle of the 12th century in Sweden and in Finland (which belonged to Sweden). It ended after the Reformation and the ascension of King Gustav Vasa. The Diet in Västerås in 1527 changed the offical religion from Catholisism to Lutheranism. What kind of changes did this cause in the food culture and in the every day lives of people in Finland after the 400 year long period of Catholisism? After the Reformation there was no need for Lent. Religion no longer dictated when you could eat meat, eggs, and milk products, or when you were allowed to eat only fish, vegetables, and bread. Were these changes fast or slow?