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How did the "black death" alter society in the Late Middle Ages?

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kmj38 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 6, 2009 at 12:19 PM via web

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How did the "black death" alter society in the Late Middle Ages?

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speamerfam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 7, 2009 at 2:22 AM (Answer #1)

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The "black death," the name by which bubonic plague was known, altered society dramatically.  Some historians estimate that as much as 40% of the population died in some countries as a result of the plague.  The disease spread along trade routes, beginning in Asia and moving along to Europe via ships, which stopped in ports and spread the disease.   

Given how many people died, all life was disrupted. There were not enough people to grow food and care for livestock, so in addition to people dying from the plague, people died from the lack of food. The cost of food and labor rose, as one would expect, given the laws of supply and demand.  Since there were not enough people to tend to agricultural needs, many people moved from country to town, disrupting the feudal system, particularly in England.  Another consequence was the result of the attempt to stop the spread of the disease, leading to isolation, paranoia, and superstition.  Still another consequence was the questioning of the authority of the Church, which was, of course, powerless to prevent the plague from occurring.  This set the state for the Reformation because people began to have doubts about the infallibility of the Church. 

There is considerable information available about this transformational period of history.  I have provided a link below that is one source of information.  Many novels have been written about this period of history, as well.  Check with your English teacher for a few suggestions. 

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