After the Black Death: Economy, society and the law in fourteenth-century England

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16 Citations (Scopus)


The Black Death of 1348-9 is the most catastrophic event in recorded history, and this study-the Ford Lectures of 2019 at Oxford University-offers a major re-evaluation of its immediate impact and longer-term consequences in England. It draws upon recent inter-disciplinary research into climate and disease; renewed interest among econometricians in the origins of the Little Divergence, whereby economic performance in parts of north-western Europe began to move decisively ahead of the rest of the continent on the pathway to modernity; a close re-reading of case studies of fourteenth-century England; and original new research into manorial and governmental sources. The Black Death is placed within the wider contexts of extreme weather and epidemiological events, the institutional framework of markets and serfdom, and the role of the law in reducing risk and shaping behaviour. The government’s response to the crisis is re-considered to suggest an innovative re-interpretation of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. By 1400 the main effects of plague had worked through the economy and society, and their implications for England’s future precocity are analysed. This study rescues the third quarter of the fourteenth century from a little-understood paradox between plague and revolt, and elevates it to a critical period of profound and irreversible change in English and global history.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages384
ISBN (Electronic)9780198857884
ISBN (Print)978-0198857884
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2021


  • Black death
  • Common law
  • Decline of serfdom
  • Institutions
  • Little divergence
  • Peasants’ revolt

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