Consequences of the Black Death

Deaths

Estimates differ, but most historians believe that the Black Death killed half the population of Europe. In some places, eg the village of West Thickley in County Durham, it killed everybody. The death-rate was especially bad in monasteries, where the monks stayed together and cared for each other. Some historians (Benedictow 2004) suggest that the wealthier classes were less affected due to their wealth enabling them to flee from outbreaks.

Effects

The precise effects are difficult to assess given the huge loss of life and subsequent inconsistent records. In some places there was even no-one left to bury the dead let alone record the effects. However, historians have suggested the Black Death had significant consequences:  

  • Psychological: the Black Death had a huge influence on the way people thought about life. Some lived wild, immoral lives, others fell into deep despair, whilst many chose to accept their fate. Many people were angry and bitter, and blamed the Church – some historians think this helped the growth of the new 'Lollard' religion in the 15th century. It could also be argued that the Black Death had brought down rich and poor alike. Having faced and survived the plague, people at the bottom of society were more prepared to question their position in society.
  • Social: poor people began to hate their poverty and their 'betters' – some historians think this helped to destroy the feudal system.
  • Economic: there was a great shortage of workers, and when Parliament passed laws to stop wages rising, poor people became very angry – some historians think this helped to cause the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.