-The Black Death and Social Change in the 14th Century-
During the Hundred Years’ War there were the ‘Black Death’, that was a bubonic plague that spread in all England, and even in all Europe, in 1348; it was known as Black Death, because the body went dark-coloured after death.
This plague was caused by fleas living on rats that infested ships that traded with Europe and its expansion was helped (aided, aiutata) by a lack of sanitation; this plague killed a third of England’s population, in fact some villages were completely depopulated or desert and food prices doubled; this rise in prices caused a demand for higher wages by the labourers.
Those payments to labourers was something new, a complete change from feudalism, and also other things changed: peasants could even bargain with their lords for their freedom and they could more to the towns more easily. So lords began using their lands for sheep farming, that required less labour.
The Black Death changed even the relationships between people and the Church, because the plague was seen as a punishment from God.
Some people also started criticizing the wealth and the behaviour of the clergy during the 14th century, and that caused a rise of a religious reformist movement, which attacked the power and worldliness of the Church and was called ‘Lollardy’.
After the death of Edward III, became king Richard II.
The King, with the Parliament, started asking for a new tax, known as ‘poll-tax’; it consisted in four pence for each person older than 14 years and twelve pence for member of religious orders, except friars.
This new tax created a big discontent between normal people and this discontent exploded in revolts, like the ‘Peasants Revolt’, whose leader where Wat Tyler and John Ball; this revolt went bad for the peasant, that were all punished severely by the King.
During the 14th century was born a new middle class, because merchants acquired more power.
Some ‘yeomen’ profited from higher food prices and others farmed sheep in order to made money from wool.
Cloth-making was the country’s chief industry, but in the city there were also butchers, bakers, smiths, shoemakers, tailors and carpenters; they were organised in groups called ‘guilds’, word that means “payment”. Those groups used to control the quality of goods, regulate prices and wages and even organising fairs, where their members could sold their product.