Following trade routes by land and sea, carried by infected humans as well as by rats and their attendant fleas, in the fourteenth century, the Black Death spread all over Europe at incredible speed.Where ever it hit the plague had tremendous repercussions.Its effects varied from the short to the long term as it caused massive breakdown both in the political and the social level. The immediate impact of the Black Death was general paralysis as cities closed their ports and markets.Trade ceased and the people were in state of shock.It is estimated that the European population declined by about one-third.As Henry Knighton writes in his account ‘The Impact of the Black Death? ?;the living did not suffice to bury the dead?.Consequently, there was a serious shortage of labour.
In many cases those workers who remained alive could earn up to five times what they had earned before the plague. Serfdom was also affected.The nobles, over the centuries, had come to recognise that free tenants were more productive than serfs.Thus, serfs were allowed to buy their freedom.However, because of the post-plague labour shortage, many nobles tried to reverse the process in order to keep their land under cultivation and their income up.Landlords tried to collect higher fees from tenant farmers as a way of increasing declining incomes.
Land was abandoned, rents were not paid and tax revenues declined. The Government tried to adjust to the social disruption caused by the plague. Attempts were made to hold wages at the pre-plague level.This proved to be an impossible task.
Unrest was widespread and this insecurity was one of the major causes of the French Jacquerie of 1358 and the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. One of the impacts of the Plague on Europe was the levelling of society.With the death of so many people wealth was redistributed and the wealth per capita increased substantially.Those workers who survive.