Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




William TeBrake

Second Committee Member

Richard Judd

Third Committee Member

Martha McNamara


The thesis illustrates an important change in Northern Italian economic and . enviromental practices in the High Middle Ages centered around the small village of Momo located near the town of Novara. The motor behind these changes was the large demographic increase that involved all of Europe from the tenth through the thirteenth centuries. Manuscripts from the thirteenth century provide a valuable insight into a momentous shift from a self-sufficient economic mentality to that of an industrial one. They were used as the lens through which to view this change "on the ground." The industry was that of hay, grown in increasing quantities due to the development of irrigation facilitated by the large amounts of water naturally available. The hay meant the development of large scale stockbreeding and its products. The thesis takes as it starting point the centuries preceeding this change. It maps out in general terms the ways in which land was used in the ninth, tenth and eleventh century. By so doing it provides the context to understand the scope and implications of the change. What crops were grown and how, the problems and advantages of this agriculture, the layout of land and dwellings, and the type of life that was made off this land are all topics covered. Central to the thesis is the section that outlines the history of Momo and the social forces, both internal and external, that marked its existence. Special care is given to outlining land and water use in the context of the town. The development of the hay and cattle industry based on irrigation was not peculiar to Momo and its surroundings, but represented a trend found all over northen Italy. The thesis looks at the forces that facilitated the transition to this "new" crop and its development in Momo. At this point the manuscripts are analyzed in detail for what they show about the shift in mentality and practices surrounding the transition from self-sufficiency to profit-maximization. The consequences of this emerging industry are mapped out in a larger north Italian landscape. The thesis discusses the example of a large, fourteenth century estate in which a full integration has been achieved between cattle breeding and agriculture, to the benefit of both. The consequences of what was outlined by the Momo manuscripts on their local surroundings are illustrated by a story of economic success experienced by the cobblers' guilds of Novara, whose power was based on the development of irrigation, hay and cattle, as well as the development of local markets.