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Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Also the monks had way more things to do than literate slaves, who could be more or less tasked with copying down books full time. A monk was at minimum expected to take part in a whole bunch of religious observances.

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tesilential
Nov 22, 2004

You're a credit to your community!

Sarern posted:

It has to be from the nouvelle region of France otherwise it's sparkling long-form prose.

Tulip
Jun 3, 2008

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.




feedmegin posted:

Even talking about people getting paid (for most people) is something that only starts becoming significant rather later on.

So a bit of a turn away from western literary history but I just think it's a pretty neat illustration of how different states can be from our current expectations:

One of the more famous practical Confucians is a guy named Wang Anshi (1021-1086). Not everybody liked his ideas but one of the people that really liked his ideas was the Shenzong Emperor so y'know he got his way. He came up with a whole integrated set of policy reforms designed around solving two problems: military weakness on the northern border, and the Song dynasty government lacked the liquidity to really do anything in particular about it. The full set of policies is known as "The New Polices."

I'm just gonna talk about the economic reforms. Some of these were pretty much what you expect: the Equal Tax Law sounds crazy but it was really just "re-survey land so that we don't miss any in our taxation." The Balanced Delivery Law put price caps on officials' expense accounts, and implemented an internal system for shipping government necessities from cheap to expensive regions, which pissed off some merchants but it's really just tightening up on the requisitions side. The Hydraulic Works Law and Labor Recruitment law were a little more interesting, because in short it was "instead of using corvee, we'll tax everybody and then pay specialists." This was incredibly loving unpopular because a lot of people were exempt from the corvee but not the new tax, ranging from landlords to children to widows.

So what types of government labor was subject to corvee? We tend to think of like, digging ditches and laying roads, but you could also be pressed into fulfilling the duties of: guarding, bookkeeping, copying works, pouring tea, guide, measuring, cleaning grain, office messenger, village warden, tax collecting, police, etc. The one that really sucked was Requisitioned Office Servicemen (I've also seen it as "Supply Officer"). This one's weird:

James TC Liu, Reform in Sung China posted:

Many did not know their way about in the government offices, or how to render the services required of them; they were ignorant of how to bribe the clerks into helping them and giving them easier assignments, or how to avoid being deceived by the career servicemen. In fact, they were often given the heavier burdens and compelled to supply provisions for the social events, private entertainment, and personal luxuries of the insatiable officials.

The endless miseries to which this group was subjected led to many evils. People would deliberately impoverish themselves or simulate poverty in the hope of evading service. They resorted to such evasions as cheating in registering property, failing to make census reports, and ostensibly, or even actually dividing the family into several separate households. Other devices were tragic: infanticide, suicide, or the marrying off of a widowed mother or widowed grandmother. Some simply fled, seeking a living in trade or handicrafts in the larger cities, or becoming monks or bandits.

I think it's fair to say that when your government labor management system generates bandits, it's not sustainable. This was recognized as a problem but it took til Wang Anshi to clear the blockage.

---

So this didn't all just get reformed and then everything was good for the next 900 years. The New Policies was a package, and a huge break with tradition. A lot of this stuff really hadn't been tried before. There were two policies that were designed to basically use the concept of "banking" to smooth out randomness on harvests and market prices. The simpler one was basically that the government would buy excess grain, sell it in regions that had shortages, and keep the excess to buy grain for famine relief/other parts of government expense. It took about thirty seconds for this to turn into a public for-profit enterprise that was regularly shaking down farmers and would see bureaucrats evaluated on their ability to produce liquid spendable cash for the government. Unsurprisingly this was profoundly unpopular and Wang Anshi's enemies didn't have a hard time forcing him out and then repealing a fairly large percentage of the New Policies. Though not all, afaik that Requisition Officer position was paid from this point forward.

OctaviusBeaver
Apr 30, 2009

Say what now?

Would Roman books have been cheaper than medieval books because they used papyrus? I have to imagine that's a lot cheaper than vellum.

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Chinese history of governance is super long, complicated and fascinating, dealing with corruption and accountability across a massive empire and a palace that could get so isolated at least one Emperor basically had to develop his own spy corps just to get useful, reliable and unaltered information and messages in and out of the Forbidden City. And a fair few cases of 'Actually pay people in important jobs a living wage rather than expecting them to grift, embezzle and take bribes'.

Brings up a historical question, which like many I expect to be hopelessly broad but elicit some interesting conversation anyway: The usual stereotype of medieval times is that outside of monks and priests, and them even barely, near everyone is illiterate, even sometimes royalty. Certainly there's a lot of ways a society was built around most people being semi-literate at best, though certainly not necessarily stupid, and where formal education was mostly a thing for the clergy and the children of the nobility and rich fuckers, and maybe certain religious communities. How common would some level of schooling be over time, not just as a dedicated path for clergy or merchants but something children with access to it would be expected to do?

I imagine like a lot of things it goes back and forth and depends on where you are as well as when. I loosely recall Charlemagne supposedly being famously illiterate, but valuing educated advisors, and sitting in on lessons with the children.

Edgar Allen Ho
Apr 3, 2017


Quoth James Cameron,

"Nevermore"



Sarern posted:

It has to be from the nouvelle region of France otherwise it's sparkling long-form prose.

Ola
Jul 19, 2004



This thread is pretty cool

https://twitter.com/OptimoPrincipi/status/1379365137862291456

Tunicate
May 15, 2012





Ghost Leviathan posted:

I imagine like a lot of things it goes back and forth and depends on where you are as well as when. I loosely recall Charlemagne supposedly being famously illiterate, but valuing educated advisors, and sitting in on lessons with the children.

I think it's likely he had an actual Learning Disability, given how hard he tried to learn to write

cheetah7071
Oct 20, 2010


College Slice

I also recall that he set up an extensive literacy program in his kingdom so that no more (noble) children would have to grow up illiterate

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





cheetah7071 posted:

I also recall that he set up an extensive literacy program in his kingdom so that no more (noble) children would have to grow up illiterate
Nam quod Carolus dummodo in schola filii Qui nescit bonum.

Medenmath
Jan 18, 2003


Tunicate posted:

I think it's likely he had an actual Learning Disability, given how hard he tried to learn to write

I don't know how you diagnose this 1200+ years later, but I recall hearing the theory that Charlemagne may have been dyslexic.

Scarodactyl
Oct 22, 2015




feedmegin posted:

Even talking about people getting paid (for most people) is something that only starts becoming significant rather later on.
I dunno, it was definitely A Thing a lot earlier in at least some cultures. It's certainly all over the old testament.
Eg Deutoronomy 24:14-15
You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.

Vincent Van Goatse
Nov 8, 2006

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.


Smellrose

Wages were a thing but they weren't being paid in money. They were paid in grain rations usually.

Tunicate
May 15, 2012





Medenmath posted:

I don't know how you diagnose this 1200+ years later, but I recall hearing the theory that Charlemagne may have been dyslexic.
We have notes from one of his teachers, Charlemagne had dedicated tutoring for years and was personally very invested in learning to write; given that (IIRC) he never was even capable of signing his name, that narrows down things a lot.

Tulip
Jun 3, 2008

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.




Scarodactyl posted:

I dunno, it was definitely A Thing a lot earlier in at least some cultures. It's certainly all over the old testament.
Eg Deutoronomy 24:14-15
You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the Lord, and you be guilty of sin.

At the same time we have a documented case from the Ramessid period of workers waiting at least six months to get paid. And while that is the most extreme case in the limited documentation, workers not being paid for work already done was common enough that it was a significant problem for tax collection.

Crab Dad
Dec 28, 2002

I ate too much crab and transformed into this.



Tulip posted:

At the same time we have a documented case from the Ramessid period of workers waiting at least six months to get paid. And while that is the most extreme case in the limited documentation, workers not being paid for work already done was common enough that it was a significant problem for tax collection.

I still don’t understand how these people were not murdered by hungry workers more often.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Crab Dad posted:

I still don’t understand how these people were not murdered by hungry workers more often.
Leaving aside various coercive mechanisms, how's he gonna pay what he owes if he's dead?

Crab Dad
Dec 28, 2002

I ate too much crab and transformed into this.



Nessus posted:

Leaving aside various coercive mechanisms, how's he gonna pay what he owes if he's dead?

lol people kill each other for less throughout history.

Tulip
Jun 3, 2008

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.




Crab Dad posted:

I still don’t understand how these people were not murdered by hungry workers more often.

TBH that detail isn't the one that's bugging the crap out of me. Egyptian society was both very robust and had a lot of 'slack' in various forms.

What's bugging me is the very basic "what did the payment look like," and if somebody here is actually an Egyptologist as opposed to a guy who's been reading random articles for the last couple months this would really satisfy a major curiosity of mine. Egypt didn't have coinage until the Ptolemys, most transactions were through debt ledgers, which here would basically mean that payment was more or less instant. Unless the payment was going to be in kind, which for this case would mean just like "way more wheat than you can reasonably carry," in which case ???. I know social history for this period is a pain in the rear end due to the nature of the source base but this is wild and I want to know what was going on.

Libluini
May 18, 2012

Did I predict the future?


Grimey Drawer

Tulip posted:

TBH that detail isn't the one that's bugging the crap out of me. Egyptian society was both very robust and had a lot of 'slack' in various forms.

What's bugging me is the very basic "what did the payment look like," and if somebody here is actually an Egyptologist as opposed to a guy who's been reading random articles for the last couple months this would really satisfy a major curiosity of mine. Egypt didn't have coinage until the Ptolemys, most transactions were through debt ledgers, which here would basically mean that payment was more or less instant. Unless the payment was going to be in kind, which for this case would mean just like "way more wheat than you can reasonably carry," in which case ???. I know social history for this period is a pain in the rear end due to the nature of the source base but this is wild and I want to know what was going on.

Apparently (I made a fast, random Google search) ancient Egypt used standardized sacks of wheat as a form of currency. So if that is true, maybe the workers were payed each day with small sacks of wheat and then they used them like money?

Edit:

From the same article:

Some guy posted:

Größere Geschäften, die abgewickelt wurden, konnte man natürlich nicht mit Hunderten von Säcken mit sich schleppen, so wurden Zahlungen und Sparguthaben in Form von standardisierten Kupfer- und Silberstücken verrechnet. Eine Kupfernorm lag bei 91 Gramm und wurde als "Deben" bezeichnet. Die Silbernorm hieß "schenati" oder "Kite" und wog 9,1 Gramm. Im Schnitt verdiente ein guter Vorarbeiter neuneinhalb Deben und ein einfacher Arbeiter sieben Deben.

To translate and summarize: Because of the inherent problems of paying in sacks of wheat, payments and credits, especially for larger transactions, were done in standardized things called "Debe/Deben" and "Schenati/Kite", using pieces of copper and silver.

A copper piece or "Debe" was 91 grams, a silver piece "Schenati" or "Kite" was 9,1 grams. A good foreman earned 9,5 Debes (or Debens, I couldn't find an English translation, so I'm basically guessing what the English tenses would be) a day and a simple worker 7.

I could see a worker getting seven copper pieces at the end of a day, instead of seven sacks of wheat. The sacks were used and accepted as legal tender, however.

Edit2:

To expand on this and to avoid confusion, those pieces weren't coins. Coins weren't really used until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, who introduced coins as legal tender.

Also, all those rules and regulations about standardized sack sizes and whatever were set by the Pharaoh directly. There was no real market like we would think of today. There was no free enterprise, as supply and demand was regulated by the Pharaoh himself. On the other hand, this meant there was also no inflation, as all prizes were set by the state and often didn't change over the course of centuries.

Libluini fucked around with this message at 12:34 on Apr 7, 2021

Ghost Leviathan
Mar 2, 2017

Exploration is ill-advised




Crab Dad posted:

I still don’t understand how these people were not murdered by hungry workers more often.

That occasionally did happen, though I imagine foremen understood that letting workers go hungry on the job, especially while doing strenuous, difficult manual labour and following complex plans, is a very bad idea. I'm told they'd sometimes be paid in beer. (presumably at the end of the day)

Edgar Allen Ho
Apr 3, 2017


Quoth James Cameron,

"Nevermore"



Egyptians typically traded in grain/bread/beer yes. Royal taxation was assessed in heads of cattle.

We don't know exactly how the system worked, because it wasn't standardized but it wasn't a full-on barter system either.

ChubbyChecker
Mar 25, 2018



Libluini posted:

Apparently (I made a fast, random Google search) ancient Egypt used standardized sacks of wheat as a form of currency. So if that is true, maybe the workers were payed each day with small sacks of wheat and then they used them like money?

Edit:

From the same article:


To translate and summarize: Because of the inherent problems of paying in sacks of wheat, payments and credits, especially for larger transactions, were done in standardized things called "Debe/Deben" and "Schenati/Kite", using pieces of copper and silver.

A copper piece or "Debe" was 91 grams, a silver piece "Schenati" or "Kite" was 9,1 grams. A good foreman earned 9,5 Debes (or Debens, I couldn't find an English translation, so I'm basically guessing what the English tenses would be) a day and a simple worker 7.

I could see a worker getting seven copper pieces at the end of a day, instead of seven sacks of wheat. The sacks were used and accepted as legal tender, however.

Edit2:

To expand on this and to avoid confusion, those pieces weren't coins. Coins weren't really used until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, who introduced coins as legal tender.

Also, all those rules and regulations about standardized sack sizes and whatever were set by the Pharaoh directly. There was no real market like we would think of today. There was no free enterprise, as supply and demand was regulated by the Pharaoh himself. On the other hand, this meant there was also no inflation, as all prizes were set by the state and often didn't change over the course of centuries.

It wasn't a daily wage, but paid every two months. And it's almost exactly the same amount of grain or silver that a medieval or Roman field worker would have earned.

sullat
Jan 8, 2012


ChubbyChecker posted:

It wasn't a daily wage, but paid every two months. And it's almost exactly the same amount of grain or silver that a medieval or Roman field worker would have earned.

Well, that's not surprising, it takes the same amount of grain to feed an Egyptian peasant as it does to feed a Roman one.

Grevling
Dec 18, 2016



Not that surprising that when you pay someone you pay them exactly enough to keep them alive if they don't have negotiating power to demand more to be honest.

Tulip
Jun 3, 2008

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.




Libluini posted:

Apparently (I made a fast, random Google search) ancient Egypt used standardized sacks of wheat as a form of currency. So if that is true, maybe the workers were payed each day with small sacks of wheat and then they used them like money?

Edit:

From the same article:


To translate and summarize: Because of the inherent problems of paying in sacks of wheat, payments and credits, especially for larger transactions, were done in standardized things called "Debe/Deben" and "Schenati/Kite", using pieces of copper and silver.

A copper piece or "Debe" was 91 grams, a silver piece "Schenati" or "Kite" was 9,1 grams. A good foreman earned 9,5 Debes (or Debens, I couldn't find an English translation, so I'm basically guessing what the English tenses would be) a day and a simple worker 7.

I could see a worker getting seven copper pieces at the end of a day, instead of seven sacks of wheat. The sacks were used and accepted as legal tender, however.

Edit2:

To expand on this and to avoid confusion, those pieces weren't coins. Coins weren't really used until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, who introduced coins as legal tender.

Also, all those rules and regulations about standardized sack sizes and whatever were set by the Pharaoh directly. There was no real market like we would think of today. There was no free enterprise, as supply and demand was regulated by the Pharaoh himself. On the other hand, this meant there was also no inflation, as all prizes were set by the state and often didn't change over the course of centuries.

Thank you for translating, I speak no German. I had not quite understood the physical nature of what was going on, I just had a vague impression that for most day to day stuff, people would use debt ledgers sort of like in Sumeria, or I've done in tighter knit communities. Makes sense that the Egyptians would use something akin to knife money before coinage.

Arglebargle III
Feb 21, 2006


aphid_licker
Jan 7, 2009

kiss kiss



Pillbug

sullat posted:

Well, that's not surprising, it takes the same amount of grain to feed an Egyptian peasant as it does to feed a Roman one.

Where would they have gotten, like, a vegetable? Grown themselves, bartered with part of the grain?

ChubbyChecker
Mar 25, 2018




huh, i had always thought that ziggurats had rooms inside

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Libluini posted:

To expand on this and to avoid confusion, those pieces weren't coins. Coins weren't really used until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, who introduced coins as legal tender.

Also, all those rules and regulations about standardized sack sizes and whatever were set by the Pharaoh directly. There was no real market like we would think of today. There was no free enterprise, as supply and demand was regulated by the Pharaoh himself. On the other hand, this meant there was also no inflation, as all prizes were set by the state and often didn't change over the course of centuries.
Ancient Egypt seems to break a lot of the rules of what we expect various civilizations or groups in society to do. How did they pull off what appears to be such a stable society for so long?

euphronius
Feb 18, 2009






I’m not an expert but it wasn’t that stable. There are huge long periods of chaos.

ChubbyChecker
Mar 25, 2018



aphid_licker posted:

Where would they have gotten, like, a vegetable? Grown themselves, bartered with part of the grain?

i don't think that there are any surviving sources about peasants' bartering, but they did grow a wide variety of vegetables

Kaal
May 22, 2002

JEREMY CORBYN BULLIED MY NAZI GRANDPA IN PRIMARY SCHOOL



Nessus posted:

Ancient Egypt seems to break a lot of the rules of what we expect various civilizations or groups in society to do. How did they pull off what appears to be such a stable society for so long?

Just at a guess, I'd think that the Nile itself would be a highly stabilizing influence on an ancient society because it's such a controllable source of plenty. In any contest over leadership, the victors would have ample land and food for their followers, while the losers would be driven into the desert where their support would rapidly decline.

feedmegin
Jul 30, 2008




euphronius posted:

I’m not an expert but it wasn’t that stable. There are huge long periods of chaos.

Also...its not that different from how Bronze Age societies like Mycenae operated, iirc.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





euphronius posted:

I’m not an expert but it wasn’t that stable. There are huge long periods of chaos.
I'm mostly looking at the thing where Pharaoh set prices for goods, and apparently those prices were honored, presumably over the course of many Pharaohs. This speaks of them doing something right, even if "something" was "state security apparatus that was very successful and did not overthrow the Pharaoh too much."

Now a lot of this is probably modern bias, of course, but they clearly had their poo poo together, at least for the most part.

euphronius
Feb 18, 2009






The pharaoh didn’t always control all of Egypt or even like anything at all.

CrypticFox
Dec 19, 2019

"You are one of the most incompetent of tablet writers"

While the Nile was certainly a source of stability sometimes, the river's flooding was not actually all that regular. All you were guaranteed was that it would flood, not how much water would come. It might be too little to cover everything needed, or it might be too much and cause flood damage. We have reliable data on Nile flooding from medieval Egypt, and this record shows the flooding level varying a lot, with some notable outlier years that would have been a lot too much or too little water. They had ways to get around these problems so they didn't all just die if the Nile had a deviant flood year, but we can match up political instability in medieval Egypt quite well with the major outliers on the graph. Pharaonic Egypt was presumably the same, and we do have references to poor Nile behavior causing instability from Pharaonic sources as well.

galagazombie
Oct 31, 2011


I think it's a little disingenuous to say Egypt didn't have periods of long term stability that later states would be envious of. Yeah they had long periods of chaos and disunity like everyone else, but they also had periods of stability that lasted like 500 years. That's practically unheard of in any other civilization. But as to why Egypt was able to do this and keep their system working, I think it has less to do with Egyptian governance and more to do with the limits of Bronze Age sophistication and the Nile. Thee Nile is easy to explain, It's one of if not the most fertile place in the ancient world. And in addition to that it runs like a clock. No worrying about will the floods come too early or too late. No worrying if the floods will be violent this year and destroy half the country. Whatever system of governance you build will be more stable by default simply because it isn't going to be upset by some river disaster like say, China and Mesopotamia so often were. The second is that we got to remember the Bronze Age for all it's impressive stuff like the Pyramids was still practically the stone age for most of the population. This meant low population numbers and "simple" economies. There's simply less for a Pharaoh to screw up. And it's easier to keep a smaller rural population in-line than it is a massive urban one.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019




improper graph types itt

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sullat
Jan 8, 2012


aphid_licker posted:

Where would they have gotten, like, a vegetable? Grown themselves, bartered with part of the grain?

IIRC they weren't paid solely in grain, they also got an allowance of meat, clothes, oil and veggies. Well, onions mostly. We know this from surviving ledgers.

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