Changes in Cities and Labor Systems: c. 600 CE - c. 1450

AP Concept: 3.3 Increased Economic Productive Capacity and Its Consequences
Key Concepts
  • Cities experienced major demographic changes
  • Labor systems and social structures changed or continued as they were
  • Economic breakthroughs in production and trade led cities to increase profoundly in size
  • Between 1100 and 1450, European towns grew into cities with an increase in trade, especially those on riverbanks or near major trading networks. These cities encouraged craftspeople to set up businesses, such as blacksmiths, leatherworkers, jewelers, and coopers, and their success stimulated further economic growth
  • Many of these cities supported foreign merchants, and populations became increasingly heterogeneous
  • Tang China saw the growth of Changan as a major trading center, with Indian, Iranian, Syrian, and Arab traders; it held 2 million people by 640
  • East African city-states emerged around 900 with the interaction of Arabic merchants from the Indian Ocean trade; Arabs and Bantu people intermingled and established Swahili from the blending of their two languages
  • Labor Systems and Social Structures
    • Decentralization of government could lead to highly stratified social and labor structures. Birth typically determined one's social status, and it was extremely difficult to change social classes
    • With the collapse of the Carolingian empire in western Europe, local lords began to control peasants in a feudal system, where peasants, or serfs, were tied to their land
    • Japan's peasants were similarly reliant on the land they worked; if they could not pay taxes to the lord or Buddhist monastery that owned their land, they became slave laborers
    • Increased migration led populations to mix with each other, thus contributing to social change
    • Song China experienced a commercial revolution with expansive cultivation of rice
    • Migrants from western Europe, hoping for more freedom, refused to work as forced labor in eastern Europe; accordingly, local elites did not follow the feudal system but instead allowed them more freedom
    • Commercial revolutions often contributed to changes in social structures, as leaders and merchants gained more economic power
    • Song Chinese emperors used China's economic strength to reduce the power of the hereditary aristocracy, and to increase the power of the ruler
    • Trade organizations and merchant guilds emerged in western Europe as economic growth improved groups such as the Hanseatic League controlled trade along the northern European coast
    • Major population disruptions, such as the Black Plague, caused intense labor shortages, which contributed to weaknesses throughout affected areas
    • In western Europe, workers demanded higher wages and peasants rebelled, which weakened feudalism

    Related Links:
    AP World History Quizzes
    AP World History
    AP World History Notes
    Growth of Regional Trade Networks: c. 1450 - c. 1750