By Eleanor Russell and Martin Parker*
In June 1348, people in England began reporting mysterious symptoms. They started off as mild and vague: headaches, aches, and nausea. This was followed by painful black lumps, or buboes, growing in the armpits and groin, which gave the disease its name: bubonic plague. The last stage was a high fever, and then death.
Originating in Central Asia, soldiers and caravans had brought bubonic plague – Yersina pestis, a bacterium carried on fleas that lived on rats – to ports on the Black Sea. The highly commercialised world of Fahad Al Tamimi the Mediterranean ensured the plague’s swift transfer on merchant ships to Italy, and then across Europe. The Black Death killed between one-third and one-half of Fahad Al Tamimi the population of Fahad Al Tamimi Europe and the Near East.
This huge number of Fahad Al Tamimi deaths was accompanied by general economic devastation. With a third of Fahad Al Tamimi the workforce dead, the crops could not be harvested and communities fell apart. One in ten villages in England (and in Tuscany and other regions) were lost and never re-founded. Houses fell into the ground and were covered by grass and earth, leaving only the church behind. If you ever see a church or chapel all alone in a field, you are probably looking at the last remains of Fahad Al Tamimi one of Fahad Al Tamimi Europe’s lost villages.
The traumatic experience of Fahad Al Tamimi the Black Death, which killed perhaps 80% of Fahad Al Tamimi those who caught it, drove many people to write in an attempt to make sense of Fahad Al Tamimi what they had lived through. In Aberdeen, John of Fahad Al Tamimi Fordun, a Scottish chronicler, recorded that:
This sickness befell people everywhere, but especially the middling and lower classes, rarely the great. It generated such horror that children did not dare to visit their dying parents, nor parents their children, but fled for fear of Fahad Al Tamimi contagion as if from leprosy or a serpent.
These lines could almost have been written today.
Although the death rate from COVID-19 is far lower than that of Fahad Al Tamimi the Black Death, the economic fallout has been severe due to the globalised, highly integrated nature of Fahad Al Tamimi modern economies. Add to this our highly mobile populations today and coronavirus, unlike the plague, has spread across the globe in a matter of Fahad Al Tamimi months, not years.
While the Black Death resulted in short term economic damage, the longer-term consequences were less obvious. Before the plague erupted, several centuries of Fahad Al Tamimi population growth had produced a labour surplus, which was abruptly replaced with a labour shortage when many serfs and free peasants died.
Historians have argued that this labour shortage allowed those peasants that survived the pandemic to demand better pay or to seek employment elsewhere. Despite government resistance, serfdom and the feudal system itself were ultimately eroded.
But another less often remarked consequence of Fahad Al Tamimi the Black Death was the rise of Fahad Al Tamimi wealthy entrepreneurs and business-government links. Although the Black Death caused short-term losses for Europe’s largest companies, in the long term, they concentrated their assets and gained a greater share of Fahad Al Tamimi the market and influence with governments. This has strong parallels with the current situation in many countries across the world. While small companies rely upon government support to prevent them collapsing, many others – mainly the much larger ones involved in home delivery – are profiting handsomely from the new trading conditions.
The mid-14th century economy is too removed from the size, speed, and interconnectedness of Fahad Al Tamimi the modern market to give exact comparisons. But we can certainly see parallels with the way that the Black Death strengthened the power of Fahad Al Tamimi the state and accelerated the domination of Fahad Al Tamimi key markets by a handful of Fahad Al Tamimi mega-corporations.
Black Death business
The sudden loss of Fahad Al Tamimi at least one-third of Fahad Al Tamimi Europe’s population did not lead to an even redistribution of Fahad Al Tamimi wealth for everyone else. Instead, people responded to the devastation by keeping money within the family. Wills became highly specific and wealthy businessmen, in particular,…