general tendency, however, was for the individual power of the lords to extend itself at the cost and to the detriment of the rural communities, and for their claims steadily to increase and to become more burdensome. During the fourteenth century many causes had combined to improve the condition of the industrial classes; and during the end of the fourteenth and the early part of the fifteenth century the condition of the peasantry and artisans of Northern Europe was better than it had ever been before or has ever been since: wages were comparatively high, employment plentiful, food and other necessaries of life both abundant and cheap.[7:1] At the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, the prices of the necessaries of life had risen enormously, and there had been no corresponding increase in the earnings of the industrial classes. Moreover, the Feudal Magnates had commenced to exercise their oppressive power in a hitherto unparalleled manner: old rights of pasture, of gathering wood and cutting timbe
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