|The Normans in the Mediterranean|
|The rural world|
The Mezzogiorno was moving into a phase of growth at the start of the Norman period, as was the case throughout Western Europe in the 11th and 12th c., marked by a general increase in population and production, and improved techniques.
Agriculture was the predominant activity, with mostly cereal-based mixed farming for the prime purpose of feeding the population. There were other crops and specialist craft industries as well, but on nothing like the scale seen elsewhere, in the great plains or around the cities of northern and central Italy.
The Norman presence thus merely accompanied this upward trend, bringing to it new structures and forms, notably in grouping the population into strongholds or hamlets: the casals (casali) characteristic of the Norman period.
But given the diversity of soil types from north to south of Norman Italy, the new situation following the conquest, the introduction of the seigniorial economy, affected the rural economy and landscape in various ways. In addition to the regional diversity due to physical geography came further differences specific to the traditions of each population