The Black Plague


THESIS


Without the effects in European population caused by the Black Plague, the government, economy, social structure, food, and land structure would have remained in a less advanced, feudalistic state.


PRELUDE TO THE BLACK DEATH


The years before the Black Death can easily explain the lack of preparedness by Europeans. Directly before the Black Death, trade had stagnated. This was Europe’s main source of income, which triggered a fall in their economy. From the previous prosperity of Europe, the population had increased greatly and overpopulation created a demand for food. The villagers were then ill equipped, malnutritioned, and distracted by war. Just when they thought things couldn’t get worse, disease began to spread (Ziegler 33). This disease would go on to kill more than both World War I and World War II combined (Biel 28).

IMPACT ON FEUDALISM
Feudalistic societies started off everywhere throughout Europe in virtually the same form. Fighting was quite common and deaths were abundant. Status and wealth were dictated by the social castes of feudalism. These castes, which could not be broken with the inferiority of one member in the lower class, were stuck in this position for some time. Little developments would come along to modify this. Feudalism was evolving with knights being paid in money instead of land and trade gaining importance (Corzine 93).


After the Black Plague, feudalism went from improving to banishing completely. A high demand for peasantry allowed a break in the feudalistic caste. Peasants could see opportunities for advances in their future. Unfortunately, most government officials could see their opportunity as well. They raised taxes to try to distract the peasants. However, this only infuriated the peasant class and many peasants revolted. Among these was Wat Tyler, who in 1381 revolted against tax increases in London (Briquebec 35). Famine also contributed in sparking similar revolts. These revolts shattered the domination of feudalistic societies.


If the Black Death had never happened, then the peasants would have never gotten the chance to break away from the cruelty forced upon them by the upper castes. The peasantry would have kept this meaningless caste forced upon them without having any say in politics or government. Isolationism would have been practiced and culture and knowledge would have been haltered in Japan. This is all because the peasants would have been dispensable with their great numbers and the government would not have had any reason to raise taxes to cause a revolt. Isolationism would have been practiced because it was near impossible to trade with all of the feuds in feudalistic society occurring.

IMPACT ON ECONOMY
There was a massive growth in the economy during the 11th, 12th, and first half of 13th centuries. This economic boom was mainly caused by superb farming, weather, and enormous harvests. There was an economic fall after wars led to a time of poor economic conditions. The goods and currency was almost worthless because there was little flow of money. The huge population of Europe became harder and harder to feed.


. After the Black Plague, prices of goods and services skyrocketed. Both goods and services were in short supply because there weren’t as many people to work or supply goods to others. This made the labor available very valuable and allowed the lower classes to hold jobs with better wages and conditions. The lower class gained in wealth and job opportunities. There was an increased opportunity in cities through immigration. Financial businesses crashed as people in debt to them died. This cleared a path for new entrepreneurs to advance. Construction projects stopped for some time allowing a change in architectural style (Knox).


If there were no Black Plague, the prices of goods would have remained at a low state. The money would have also stayed in the hands of the wealthy. The Black Death provided society with an opportunity to pass the money around into the hands of the less fortunate. European economy and trade would have continued lowering until another land would eventually take control of trade. When this country took control of Europe’s trade, they would have most likely taken control of the weakened Europe as well. The poor would not be able to pay for food and became even more desolate. Despite the economy sharply falling with fewer goods to trade (Loftus eted.), the pre-plague