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The Effects of The Black Death on the Economic and Social Life of Europe

Uploaded by dropthechalupa01 on Feb 26, 2000

The Black Death is the name later given to the epidemic of plague that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351. The disaster affected all aspects of life. Depopulation and shortage of labor hastened changes already inherent in the rural economy; the substitution of wages for labor services was accelerated, and social stratification became less rigid. Psychological morbidity affected the arts; in religion, the lack of educated personnel among the clergy gravely reduced the intellectual vigor of the church. "In less than four years the disease carved a path of death through Asia, Italy, France, North Africa, Spain and Normandy, made its way over the Alps into Switzerland, and continued eastward into Hungary" (Microsoft Bookshelf, page 1). After a brief respite, the plague resumed, crossing the channel into England, Scotland, and Ireland, and eventually made its way into the northern countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and even as far north as Greenland. In other words, the plague touched almost the entire known world. So much death could not help but tear economic and social structures apart. Lack of peasants and laborers sent wages soaring, and the value of land plummeted. For the first time in history the scales tipped against wealthy landlords as peasants and serfs gained more bargaining power. Without architects, masons and artisans, great cathedrals and castles remained unfinished for hundreds of years. Governments, lacking officials, floundered in their attempts to create order out of chaos. The living lost all sense of morality and justice, and a new attitude toward the church emerged. Medieval people could find no Divine reason for the four-year nightmare, and dissatisfaction with the church gave impetus to reform movements that eventually broke apart the unity of the Catholic Church. The plague itself was disastrous enough, especially in the appearance of more than one form during the same epidemic. But coming when it did was as catastrophic as its form. The middle 14th century was not a good time for Europe. The European economy was already in difficulties. It was approaching the limits of expansion, both on its frontiers and in reclaiming land from forest and swamp. The arrival of the Mongols and the Ottomans had disrupted trade routes, and certain areas of Europe were edging into depression. "The Church was in poor shape as well. The popes resided at Avignon, not at Rome, to the scandal of many. Heresy could be found in England and Bohemia...

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Uploaded by:   dropthechalupa01

Date:   02/26/2000

Category:   European History

Length:   6 pages (1,318 words)

Views:   1628

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