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The Black Death, And It's Effect On Medieval Europe

1616 words - 6 pages

World History Essay: The Black DeathCertain events in the world's history are so cataclysmic, that the ramifications can still be felt to this day. In Europe's history, few events had such a profound historical impact as the Black Death, a horrible plague that raged across Europe in the fourteenth century. The Black Death caused the demise of between one third and three quarters of Europe's population between 1347and1350, but it had several positive and lasting impacts on European culture and society. These include decreasing the surplus population leading to a higher demand for peasants and the rise of capitalism, changing and improving the treatment and role of women in medieval society, and a boom in medieval artwork, and labour saving technology. The Black Death also helped develop human immunities, which continue to benefit us to this day. However, of all of these, the most profound might be the rise of peasants out of serfdom.The thirteenth century lead to a great rise in Europe's population. In England and Wales, the population almost doubled. This was brought on by an unusually warm and moist climate, which allowed bumper crops to be harvested. With a better diet, and mild winters, Europe thrived. However, by the second decade of the fourteenth century, a colder drier climate had set in. This period is known as the "Little Ice Age" and was a time of famine for most of Europe. Although by itself the Little Ice Age did little to lower Europe's population, it starved and weakened it, and drove Europe's farmers to abandon their empty fields and crowd the cities, perfectly setting the stage for a deadly pandemic to strike.Before the Black Death struck Europe, most peasants were confined in the "feudal system" which made them completely subject to their lord's will. Serfs, as they were known, had very few rights, and much of their harvest was given to the lord, whose land they tilled. Due to the massive population boom that Europe experienced in the thirteenth century, serfs were in high supply, and low demand. This meant that very few could save enough to buy their freedom and become Yeoman's, or freeman. However, this all changed after the Black Death. With a reduction of at least one third of Europe's population, the surplus population brought on by the boom was decimated. Rural villages were completely wiped out, and fields went unplowed. As lords watched their serfs die off in vast quantities, they had to purchase new ones. Yet, serfs were not as cheap as they once were. With such a shortage of farm hands, lords began to increase the earnings a serf would receive, to entice him to work on his farm. This increase in peasant wages allowed many more to buy the status of Yeoman, and start their own farms, further increasing their wealth. The Black Death allowed many peasants to purchase a better life, and it helped to end the feudal system, leading to the rise of early capitalism. However, the decrease in population was not only beneficial to...

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