The Effects Of Plagues Essay

5881 words - 24 pages

The Effects of Plagues

The effects of the plagues differed from one region to another
according to the forms of agriculture practised and local economic
conditions. So we should be very careful about making broad
generalisations. As one might expect the kill rate was lower in the
countryside than it was in the towns, but it was still significant. In
a selection of Essex manors hit in 1349 the range was between 25% at
Market Roding rising to 54% at High Easter. Medieval Essex was highly
manorialised and close to the main trade routes out of London and
along the Essex coast and therefore more vulnerable. Overall rural
mortality is thought to have been around 30% for those parts of Europe
affected by the 1348 plague.. This however is not the end of the
story. Between 1349 and 1369 recurrent bouts of the plague removed 80%
of the pre Black Death population at Coltishall in Norfolk. These are
catastrophic figures which must inevitably have affected the whole
economic scene. Societies cannot afford to lose populations on this
scale and recover overnight. Economic recession was inevitable.

There were a number of collateral phenomena which added to the
immediate impact of the 1348 Plague. The inability of the survivors to
bury the dead has already been noted. In the countryside people died
in the field and ditches and were left to rot. But humans were not the
only victims. Knighton noted that in 1348 there as a also a great
murrain of sheep everywhere in the realm "so that" he

says

"in one place more than 5000 sheep died in a single pasture, and they
rotted so much that neither beast not bird would approach
them"...."Sheep and oxen strayed through the fields and among the
crops, and there was none to drive them off or collect them, but they
perished in uncounted numbers throughout all districts for lack of
shepherds because there was such a shortage of servants and labourers.
In the following autumn no one could get a reaper for less than 8d
with food, a mower for less than 12d with food. For this reason many
crops perished in the fields for lack of harvesters. But in the year
of the plague, as is explained above, there was so great and abundance
of all kinds of corn that they were scarcely regarded. "

Knighton also records a dramatic fall in the price . " A great
cheapness of all things for fear of death, for few took any account of
riches or of possessions of any kind."

It was a sad irony that the harvest of 1348 was a good one, but in
many places there was either no one to reap it, or those who had
survived were so shocked that they were unable to organise themselves
for the harvest. Many decided that it was only a matter of time before
they too would die from the plague and so decided to enjoy themselves
whilst they could. What happened in the Siena of Agnolo di Tura...

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