Impact of The Black Death upon Medieval England

Impact of The Black Death upon Medieval England
The Black Death

The Black
Death is the name given to a deadly plague (often called bubonic plague, but is
more likely to be pneumonic plague) which was rampant during the Fourteenth
Century. It
is a bacteria-borne disease; the bacteria in
question being Yersinia pestis,
which was carried in the blood of wild black rats and the fleas that lived off
the rats.
It was
believed to have arrived from Asia in late 1348 and caused more than one
epidemic in that century – though its impact on English society from 1348 to
1350 was terrible. No medical knowledge existed in Medieval England to cope
with the disease.
By Spring 1349 the Black Death had
killed six out of every ten Londoners.
One of the worst aspects of the disease
to the medieval Christian mind is that people died without last rites and
without having a chance to confess their sins.
Lack
of medical knowledge meant that people tried anything to help them escape the
disease. One of the more extreme was the flagellants. These people wanted to
show their love of God by whipping themselves, hoping that God would forgive
them their sins and that they would be spared the Black Death.
The Black Death had a huge impact on
society. Fields went unploughed as the men who usually did this were victims of
the disease. Harvests would not have been brought in as the manpower did not
exist. Animals would have been lost as the people in a village would not have
been around to tend them.
With
the population so low, there were not enough workers to work the land. As a
result, wages and prices rose. The
Ordinances of Labourers
(1349) tried to legislate a return to pre-plague
wage levels, but the overwhelming shortage of labourers meant that wages
continued to rise. Landowners offered extras such as food, drink, and extra
benefits to lure labourers. The standard of living for labourers rose
accordingly.



The
nature of the economy changed to meet the changing social conditions. Land that
had once been farmed was now given over to pasture, which was much less
labour-intensive. This helped boost the cloth and woollen industry.
Feudal law stated that peasants
could only leave their village if they had their lord’s permission. Now many
lords were short of desperately needed labour for the land that they owned.
After the Black Death, lords actively encouraged peasants to leave the village
where they lived to come to work for them. When peasants did this, the lord
refused to return them to their original village.
To curb peasants roaming around the
countryside looking for better pay, the government introduced the Statute of
Labourers
in 1351. This created great anger amongst the peasants
which was to boil over in 1381 with the Peasants Revolt. Hence, it can be
argued that the Black Death was to lead to the Peasants Revolt.
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