What were the economic consequences of the Black Death?
In an odd way, the Black Death was actually beneficial to the economy of Europe. Of course, it only benefitted those people who were still living.
The Black Death led to a situation where labor was at a premium. Because so many people had died, workers were in short supply. This made the workers' wages go up. At the same time, there was something of an oversupply of goods because of a drop in demand as people died. As demand dropped, so did prices. This led to a situation in which people had more money and things cost less as well. This meant that people could buy more and their standard of living went up.
In the short term, then, the main economic impact of the Black Death was an increase in the standards of living for many of those left alive.
While many city dwellers moved to the country to avoid the plague, many in the country moved to the cities in hopes of getting employment. The times were ripe for inflation and in many countries the governments stepped in to bring the economies back into line.
Edward III of England, in the middle of the century, instituted the "Statute of Labourers" which read, in part,
"Every man and woman of our realm of England, of what condition he be, free or bond, able in body, and within the age of sixty years, not living in merchandize, nor exercising any craft, nor having all his own whereof he may live, nor land of his own about whose tillage he may occupy himself, and not serving any other; if he'd be required to serve in suitable service, his estate considered, he shall be bound to serve him which shall so require him; and take only the wages, livery, meed, or salary which were accustomed to be given in the places where he oweth to serve."
This "wage fixing" was a case of the government giving in to the demands of the ruling classes. Nonetheless, it did begin to bring down inflation. At the same time, the shortage of labour and the increase in mobility contributed to the decline of serfdom.
The peasant revolts, particularly the great rising of 1381, was not a direct result of the Black Death, but was probably tied to the economic consequences of the plague. The Statute of Labourers, which effectively fixed wages at pre-plague levels was another factor which, in all probability, led to the uprisings.
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