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Social and Economic Effects of Black Death on Europe

Social and Economic Effects of Black Death on Europe

The Black Plague (also known as the Black Death or Bubonic Plague) of the 1300s is considered by many historians to be one of the most influential events and turning point in the transition from medieval to modern-day Europe. Some analysts even compare its devastation to that of World War I, since "25% to 50% of Europe's population were killed during the onslaught" of the plague (Gottfried, 77). While "no one rich, middling, or poor, was safe from the plague" (Platt, 97), those affected the most were those in the lower economic classes. England's peasant population in particular was affected greatly in both positive and negative ways; dramatic changes took place in all spheres of their lives: religiously, economically, and socially. In order to comprehend the tremendous impact the Black plague had on the English peasants' and in turn European history as a whole, one must first examine the events which led up to the onslaught of the plague, followed by how it altered the different aspects of their lives in an interconnected manner. The term "Black Plague" applies to the form of Bubonic Plague which raged relentlessly through Europe from 1347 to 1351 AD.

During the High Middle Ages (10th-13th centuries) the population of Europe grew "steadily and unabated from 25 million in 950 AD to 75 million in 1250 AD" (Gottfried,17), the disease pool had reached something of an equilibrium, and deaths due to plagues and illnesses were at a low. There had been political stability for about two hundred years and there was a surplus of food due to good growing conditions and new agricultural and technological innovations. Since less people had to live off the land, more became merchants and tradesmen, which greatly improve the culture and economy, and also encouraged trade, thus instilling a sense of security among people.

By the mid 13th century, a change for the worse overtook Europe. The "little Ice Age" took place, causing the climate to become colder and damp; crops rotting in their fields meant that the large population growth was outstripping food production. The population of Europe became increasingly poor; 10% died as a result of famine; related diseases (such as typhoid fever and dysentary) began to emerge as did livestock epidemics. With all these problems, combined with dirty, unhygenic living conditions, perhaps it is no...

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