Economic Effects Of The Black Plague In England

2225 words - 9 pages

The high middle ages from the eleventh to the fourteenth century saw the reemergence of urban life, the revival of long distance commerce, innovation, maturation of manorial agriculture, and a burgeoning population. Consequently, the fourteenth century spawned war, famine, disease and economic decay, leading to what many historians believe to be the end of the Middle Ages. Although there were many contributing factors such as famine, collapsing institutions and war. Many historians believe the arrival of the Black Death to England in 1348 was the final straw, and the most impactful agent of change in that area. In a letter to his brother, Petrarch wrote, “When has any such thing been even heard or seen; in what annals has it ever been read that houses were left vacant, cities deserted, the country neglected, the fields too small for the dead and a fearful and universal solitude over the whole earth?” The crowded, bustling city of London had poor sanitation and filthy living conditions, which led to a rapid spread of the disease to the rest of England. The plague did not discriminate, as it knocked down anyone in its path, but it affected the oldest, the youngest and the poorest most dramatically as it wiped out an estimated thirty to forty percent of England. Many will argue that due to a lack of key pieces of information and being surrounded by other factors such as the Great Famine and the Hundred Years War, it is hard to be certain on the level of impact the plague had as a standalone catastrophe, but there is enough evidence to realize it played a significant role in shaping the landscape of England’s economy. The depopulation of England is a factor around every economic effect either directly or indirectly. The two largest effects under the depopulation umbrella were the consequences and changes made to agriculture and the effect on the labor force, especially peasants. With depopulation, agricultural and commerce reform and labor force alterations, the effects of the Black Death in England were dramatic and placed the course of the English economy on a new path.
To gain perspective on the level of economic change in England, it is important to note and understand the population trends, as it had a directly impacted all aspects of change in regards to the economic effects of the Black Plague. In simple terms, the number of people had a direct impact on the most basic categories of the economy: production and consumption. An expanding population is only possible if it has the economic resources to support it. It seems the Black Death’s impact on population levels actually created a silver lining based on the “Malthusian Theory” where English scholar Thomas Malthus claims, “[t]hat the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.” As England was experiencing overpopulation, there was not enough agricultural production to support the masses, but...

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