The Significance of the Hill-Fort: Economic


We have seen earlier how the hill-forts of ancient Britain provided the military chieftains of the time with excellent defensive and reconnaissance capabilities. Now, let us turn to the economic significance of the hill-fort.

The military chieftain was usually also the big-man-in-village, as it were, the man in charge of the livelihood of the village. Now, the introduction of agriculture earlier in the Bronze Age made the hill-fort possible by eliminating the need of the population to keep moving as it hunted and gathered its food. But with stable settlements came also the need for economic attention. A village that manned a wheat field, for example, might trade some of its wheat to another village in exchange for the fruit grown on the other village’s apple trees. Thus was born economics.

The chieftain of the village, as the man in charge, would be responsible for the regulation of this trade and the maintenance of the trade routes. (This is modern language used to describe primitive practices, but the concept was the same.) At the same time, someone had to distribute the foods and other goods that came into a village from other places. If the chieftain did not effect this distribution himself, he certainly regulated it.

From his perch atop the hill-fort, the chieftain could observe the trading going on in his village. He could see caravans arriving and departing. He could see marketplaces thriving. He was secure in the knowledge that he was responsible for the economic success (or failure) of his village.