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The Social and Economic Impact of the Black Death

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Sarah Byrne

on 12 October 2015

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Transcript of The Social and Economic Impact of the Black Death

Thank You!
Proir to Black Death

Feudalism and Manorialism strong
Population increase and economic expansion.
Plenty of peasant farmers to work the land - Lords could demand lower wages.
85% lived in rural localities.
Church dominated
Europe, and especially England, weakened by famine 1315-18
The number of people that died in Britain and Europe are highly debated by history-based academics, as well as medics.
Came in waves of several outbreaks in changing locailities.
Primary Source material suggests a high mortality rate (see handout) NB. Postan Theory
Though primary accounts may be exaggerated, they illustrate the shock and anxiety the plague reaped upon Medieval society.

'By the end of the thirteenth century there may have been between 5 and 6.5 million people in England, by....[1377] there may have been as few as 2 to 2.5 million....The population had been almost halved.'

(Bolton, The World Upside Down: Plague as an Agent of Social and Economic Change (1996), p.28)
The Social and Economic Impact of the Black Death

- spread by the bacteria
yersinia pestis
and symptoms include buboes on glands eg. armpits, neck, groin.
- same bacteria, but directly affects the lungs with symptoms including coughing and shortness of breath.
- spread through open wounds directly in to the blood stream. Symptoms include sepsis and bleeding from mouth and nose
How many people died?
Economic Impact
Social Change
Less men to work the land and less crops being produced during The Black Death.
Rise in wages and economic bargaining power of freemen.
Urbanisation and the growth of market towns.
Statute of Labourers 1351
Withering of serfdom?

Mobility - urbanisation created a spatial and economic vacuum in rural areas.
Labourers could demand higher wages for their services, with mass mortality rates and the rise of skilled labourers.
Decline in the bonds of feudalism - rising number and power of freemen.
General decline in Lord-Peasant relations (Hilton)
Medicine increasingly based on empirical observation - rise of the surgeons.

1377, 1380 and 1381 Poll taxes as catalysts for
The Peasant's Revolt
of 1381.
Demanded an end to feudalism, ecclesiastical Lordship, with only the King as the head of state
Before Black Death - women and men had separate roles and spheres. Women's work centered around the house and the family. However, the making and selling of ale could supplement household income.
Black Death created a shortage of labour,which must be filled by women.
Femme Sole - some urban widows granted rights over their own property and wealth.


Remained in unskilled spheres of work.
Brewing slowly becoming a burgeoning business and subsequently
Immediate Reactions
Divine punishment from God - sought healing help from the Church and the purge of sin from society.
Jewish pogroms
Medicine and surgery
Full transcript