Essay on Religious Effects From The Black Death | Majortests
As a consequence of the beginning of blurring financial distinctions, social distinctions sharpened. The fashions of the nobility became more extravagant in order to emphasize the social standing of the person wearing the clothing. The peasants became slightly more empowered, and revolted when the aristocracy attempted to resist the changes brought about by the plague. In 1358, the peasantry of northern France rioted, and in 1378 disenfranchised guild members revolted. The social and economic structure of Europe was drastically and irretrievably changed.
The Black Death: Contemporaries Confront a “Universal” Pestilence
By way of example, Ralph Higden, a contemporary chronicler, argued that 'lords and great men escaped'. By contrast, Geoffrey le Baker, an Oxfordshire man, noted deaths among the nobility. And so there were: one of King Edward III's daughters, archbishops, bishops, abbots, abbesses, nobles and lords of manors died in the first outbreak. In 1361 the Duke of Lancaster, a leading general, was among the victims. Le Baker also noted the immediate effects on the young and strong: 'the weak and elderly it generally spared'. In 1361 we find references to the outbreak being especially fierce among children. Later plagues were especially violent, as noted above, in towns. At Southampton, for example, in the sixteenth century, between 15 and 25% of the population was carried off every twenty years by outbreaks of plague. However, there is no doubt that proportionately the hardest-hit part of society was the most numerous: the peasantry, labourers and artisans.
If lay society was never the same again after the Black Death, nor was the English Church. Contemporaries were quick to note that the Black Death killed proportionately at least as many clergy as laity. New recruits were noted as being of a lesser quality. Henry Knighton, writing in Leicester, said of these new clerks that many of them were illiterate, no better than laymen - 'for even if they could read, they did not understand'. Worse still, clergy post-plague demanded from twice to ten times more than before for a vicarage or chaplaincy. Some clergy deserted their posts, and left their churches to 'wild beasts'. A fierce argument raged in the first half of the twentieth century between F.A. Gasquet, who became a cardinal in England, and the Cambridge historian G.G. Coulton over the effects of the plague on the medieval church. Gasquet saw the plague as a catastrophe which ruined the church in England through clergy mortality, and was among the seeds of the Reformation on the sixteenth century. Coulton, by contrast, argued that clergy mortality in the Black Death was exaggerated by monkish writers and that the clergy abandoned their posts and fled. There is evidence on both sides and the argument rages!
Economic Effects of the Black Death on Europe essay …
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales of 1387 the well-known Prologue describes the dress of each pilgrim. Arguably, it demonstrates that apart from the knight, the poor parson and the ploughman, who personify each of the three traditional divisions of medieval society, every pilgrim is dressed more grandly that the Sumptuary Law would allow. The Canterbury Tales came six years after the Great Revolt of 1381 in which rebellion flared throughout much of England, the Kent and Essex men invaded London, chopped off Archbishop Sudbury's head and terrified the fourteen-year-old Richard II into agreeing concessions on the Poll Tax and other matters. The Poll Tax was an unsuccessful attempt by the government to combat the effects of plague by changing the basis of taxation from a charge on communities (many much less populous following successive plagues), with a tax on individuals who had survived. Chaucer, the court poet, was very aware of the anxieties of the elite in the new post-plague society. His Canterbury pilgrims, as the courtiers encountered them, were arranged 'by rank and degree' and sent back down the road to Canterbury in perfect order, led by the knight: precisely the opposite to the unruly mob which had marched up from Canterbury in 1381.
The effects of the Black Death on Medieval Europe Essay …
In summary, the vast majority of the population at the time of the Black Death was rural peasants who suffered the highest mortality and in so doing, became much more expensive and choosy about where they worked, and how they related to lords. Weakened communities provided the opportunity in the century and a half after the plague for landlords to clear lands and enclose them for sheep, so that Sir Thomas More, writing soon after 1500, saw the countryside as overrun and consumed by sheep. People certainly expected and obtained higher wages even in the church, whose authority was challenged by many, including Chaucer in his mocking Canterbury Tales. Recruitment to the parish clergy fell and monastic houses never recovered. In a sense the Black Death was the prehistory both of enclosure and of the Reformation. Perhaps Cardinal Gasquet was right when he noted long ago that the plague led to the emergence for the first time of a middle class (who chatter and challenge authority) funded by accumulating the wealth of those who had died. Thus the old medieval tripartite division of society into those who fought (the nobility and knights), those who prayed (the churchmen) and those who laboured (the peasants) was never the same again.
The effects of the Black Death on Medieval Europe Essay ..
It has been argued that the Black Death brought about the end of feudalism. This was the system of service in return for a grant of land, burdening the peasant with many obligations to his lord. For example, payments were due on entering a land holding, upon marriage and death and on many other occasions. The Black Death did not start the process of the commutation (substitution) of a money payment for labour and other services. However, there is no doubt that the plague speeded up the process by reducing dramatically the numbers of peasants and artisans. By how much commutation accelerated is still a matter of fierce debate.