Feudal Europe
What was the crisis of the 14th century?
What was the plague?

The growth experienced in Europe between the 11th and the 13th centuries resulted in a profound crisis during the 14th century. There were three calamities suffered by the population: hunger, war and plagues.

The crisis in agriculture and its consequences

From 1270 it became obvious that the increase in agricultural production had come to a halt and could not supply enough food for the growing population. There were three causes for this situation.

  • Many lands had run out of fertile soil after prolonged use.

  • Sorne crops for food supplies were replaced by dye and textile plants to cover the great industrial demand.

  • Soil was no longer rotated.

As a direct consequence of the lower cereal production, prices went up, thus affecting the lower classes.

During the first half of the 14th century, there were heavy rains and floods causing the loss of crops, sometimes for various years running, The results were drastic and many died frorn hunger or lack of nutrition.

In the l4th century many political conflicts took place. The worst conflict was the Hundred Years War between the French and English monarchies, which started in 1328. It destroyed crops and led to an increase in taxes to pay for military expenses. Other areas such as the Iberian Peninsula also suffered from the effects of wars. (Christian versus Muslim kingdoms)

There were also many social conflicts. The consequences of the economic crisis, destruction from war and the high taxes caused many peasant protests. The growing social inequalities led to urban conflicts.

The Black Death

In 1348 a terrible plague, the Black Death devastated Europe. It was brought from Asia on a Genoese ship. Hunger and poor hygiene conditions stimulated its spreading.

The spreading of the Black Death over Europe

In two years the Black Death expanded and devastated the entire continent. The cities suffered the worst consequences as the population was more concentrated there.

The Black Death killed a quarter of the population in Europe. During the second half of the 14th century there were many outbreaks, although none of thern were as severe as the one in 1348.