The Black Death In Elizabethan England

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By the end of the fourteenth century, the Black Death killed nearly 60% of Europe’s population. First arriving in Europe through sick merchants on Genoese trading ships that docked in Sicily, the plague caused boils, fever, diarrhea, horrible pain, and shortly, death. No one was sure how the Death spread, and this combined with the fast course the disease took and the primitive medical practices of the time allowed for the disease to spread through the continent in devastating time. It only took about twenty-three days from the point of infection for the plague to be fatal (Benedictow). The Black Death spread extensively through Europe, affecting both nobility and peasants. This epidemic caused panic and distress among people of all classes. …show more content…

The country, before the plague ravaged it, was under the feudal law system. In this system, the lord owned the land in small communities, and the peasants living there farmed the land and gave him a portion of their crops as a form of payment. The plague forced this system to collapse. The Black Death killed most of the aforementioned peasants, so the fields they were expected to farm on were left unplowed. In addition to this, lords advised peasants to leave their homelands during the epidemic to come work for them, but also refused to let them return to their original village. Peasants realized they could move from village to village, constantly switching to whichever proprietor offered them the best deal. This greatly changed the traditional feudal system, which served to confine peasants to a certain piece of land. In response to this, the government passed the Statute of Labourers in 1351 that forced peasants to remain in their homelands and did not allow lords to change their wages from what they were in 1346. This infuriated the peasants and led to the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Survivors of the Black Death felt that they were special, chosen specifically by God to be saved (Trueman), and after this the lower class began to demand more economic and social equality. When the government passed the Statute, the poor felt that the law served to keep them from this equality. Unfortunately, the Revolt did not immediately result in the end of serfdom, but was seen by the Whig historians as the “beginning of the end of the feudal system” (BBC Staff). In an indirect way, the Black Death led to the abolishment of the feudal system and more freedom for the

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