This period sees the growth of more complex urban settlements. Towns and cities grew around their markets with a steady increase in trade. Within this environment, bakers began to set up their business. Bakers' guilds were introduced to protect the interests of members and to regulate controls governing the price and weight of bread. Bread continued to be a symbol of hierarchical social organization. Bread of fine white flour was consumed by the nobility. Wheaten bread became a symbol of merchants and tradesmen while the lower classes ate bread made out of bran.
Hair sieves were introduced to help sift the bran from flour, leading to finer white bread consumed by the nobles.
The Doomsday Book was commissioned showing how water was employed as a source of power for grain milling.
Bakers formed guilds as an early form of a trade union intended to protect baker’s rights. Bakers would meet regularly to eat and drink, exchange ideas and discuss the training of their apprentices and financial support to colleagues going through times of hardship. Collectively they would also discuss measures of how to protect themselves from manorial barons.
The first recorded windmill in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
King John introduced the first laws governing the price of bread which entitled the baker for profit. Not only did the law fix the price, but it strictly allocated that price between cost of material and an allowance for necessary charges to the baker.
The Assize of Bread. This body sat to regulate the weight and price of loaves. The first bread subsidy was given - 12 pennies for eight bushels of wheat made into bread. (A bushel of wheat is the actual weight of 8 gallons of wheat - this could vary according to the hardness or dryness of the grain). If a baker broke this law he could be pilloried and banned from baking for life.
White bread bakers and brown bread bakers formed separate guilds. In London the Bread Street market defended London bread, forcing rural competitors to sell at uncompetitive prices.
Chaucer wrote The Miller's Tale, pointing to the greedy ways of millers and their suspicious standing in society.
Christopher Columbus reaches the Americas. The exploration of this new continent brought with the discovery of corn in what is today Cuba.