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Black death in england

The meaning of «black death in england»

The Black Death was a bubonic plague pandemic, which reached England in June 1348. It was the first and most severe manifestation of the second pandemic, caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria. The term Black Death was not used until the late 17th century.

Originating in Asia, it spread west along the trade routes across Europe and arrived on the British Isles from the English province of Gascony. The plague was spread by flea-infected rats, as well as individuals who had been infected on the continent. Rats were the reservoir hosts of the Y. pestis bacteria and the Oriental rat flea was the primary vector.

The first-known case in England was a seaman who arrived at Weymouth, Dorset, from Gascony in June 1348.[1] By autumn, the plague had reached London, and by summer 1349 it covered the entire country, before dying down by December. Low estimates of mortality in the early twentieth century have been revised upwards due to re-examination of data and new information, and a figure of 40–60 per cent of the population is widely accepted.

The most immediate consequence was a halt to the campaigns of the Hundred Years' War. In the long term, the decrease in population caused a shortage of labour, with subsequent rise in wages, resisted by the landowners, which caused deep resentment among the lower classes. The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 was largely a result of this resentment, and even though the rebellion was suppressed, in the long term serfdom was ended in England. The Black Death also affected artistic and cultural efforts, and may have helped advance the use of the vernacular.

In 1361–62 the plague returned to England, this time causing the death of around 20 per cent of the population. After this the plague continued to return intermittently throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, in local or national outbreaks. From this point on its effect became less severe, and one of the last outbreaks of the plague in England was the Great Plague of London in 1665–1666.

It is impossible to establish with any certainty the exact number of inhabitants in England at the eve of the Black Death, and estimates range from 3 to 7 million.[2] The number is probably in the higher end, and an estimate of around 6 million inhabitants seems likely.[3] Earlier demographic crises—in particular the Great Famine of 1315–1317—had resulted in great numbers of deaths, but there is no evidence of any significant decrease in the population prior to 1348.[4] England was still a predominantly rural and agrarian society; close to 90 per cent of the population lived in the countryside.[5] Of the major cities, London was in a class of its own, with perhaps as many as 70,000 inhabitants.[6] Further down the scale were Norwich, with around 12,000 people, and York with around 10,000.[5] The main export, and the source of the nation's wealth, was wool. Until the middle of the century the export had consisted primarily of raw wool to cloth makers in Flanders. Gradually though, the technology for cloth making used on the Continent was appropriated by English manufacturers, who started an export of cloths around mid-century that would boom over the following decades.[7]

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