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Something To Do With The Black Death

2088 words - 9 pages

The Black Death changed the course of history through several forms of upheaval. The effects of the Black Death were multifarious and nuanced. However, it is possible to examine a few aspects of the changes it wrought and by so doing, acquire a greater understanding for the way it changed history as a whole. The dimensions of the change covered herein will include demographic shift, revolts of the people, and social upheaval. The demographic change occured as a direct result of the massive amount of people who perished due to the black death, the revolts, and other social upheaval, including religious intolerance, were indirect, but vitally important consequence of the Black Death. All ...view middle of the document...

The Black Death thereafter killed off such a large number of people, that it affectively broke the deadlock cycle.
The decrease in population, while tragic for those who died or lost their entire families, ultimitely proved to be beneficial for all those that survived. Estimates vary as to the actual number of people who died due to the plague.3 Whatever the number, with the shcokingly sudden demise of up to eighty percent of the population there was suddenly enough arrable land to go around. The amount of arrable land stayed the same, or perhaps even decreased since there weren’t always tenants to work it, but because the amount of people dropped so dramatically there was a greater availabiltiy of land per person than there had been before the plague struck.4 Superficially this meant that less people were starving to death as a result of malnutrtition since there was more food to go around per person. The demographic shift also created more subtle shifts though in terms of the working conditions the peasants faced, and the social contracts that held tenant farmers to their land.
The increased amount of land per person meant that there were more opportunities for emplyoment. Landowners needed enough tenants to work their lands. In terms of supply and deman, before the plague the supply of workers was greater than the deman for work, after the plague, when the supply of workers was greatly reduced, the demand for each individual worker became higher. Individuals could therefore begin demanding better working conditions, including higher wages or better deals in terms of their contracts if they were tenant farmers. If a farmer was bound to an unfavorable contract he could just leave, knowing that a landlord down the road could offer him a better deal. To combat this, the ruling class imposed laws prohibiting the increase of wages to anything higher than those before the plague occured. One example of this is the 1349 Statute of Labourers Act pased by the English Parliament. However, not even these laws could defeat the natural laws of supply and demand and while theoretically the wages couldn’t get higher, practically better conditions did ensue.5
The issue of demographic shift, incontreveritbly connects to the revolts and rebellions that followed in the years after the plague first struck. There is no one cause for the revolts beginning in the mid-fourteenth century, however, the disintegration of the tax base was one of the leading causes. The black death may have killed off a third of Europe on it’s own, but that didn’t stop the different European monarchs trying to kill more people through their wars, especially the Hundred Years war which raged from 1337 coinciding directly with the plague. War however were costly and necessitated both a good number of soldiers, and tax payers to fund said soldiers. Considering the sudden scarcity of people on the continet, it isn’t hard to imagine that monarchs would have found it more difficult to...

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