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Black Death: The Stuttering Aftermath

The Black Death is easing up. After a few short years, entire regions have been wiped out with no one left to count the dead. Estimates range from 24 million to 75 million dead but no one knows for sure. You can use a 30% to 40% as a rough estimate. The Plague went through the population like wildfire making historians wonder if this was a special type of Plague. Some suggest a combination of Plague and anthrax. Some have even suggested A PLAGUE FROM SPACE![1] but Occam's Razor applies here: the simple explanation is that an extensive merchant network carried the Plague far and wide. Crowded city conditions made passing the Plague from person to person easy. By modern standards poor personal hygiene created an environment where receiving multiple flea bites was tolerated. The Plague will return in 1361 and it will remain a periodic problem until 1839 when mass production makes popular a small and simple thing... cake soap. [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The above summary is controversial so check the notes below. The "PLAGUE FROM SPACE!" is a real theory still trotted out from time-to-time, most recently by the TV science show, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" [5] which makes a logical argument that microbes seeded Earth from space. "Cosmos" is "science for the laymen," so they gloss over details, but this idea fails for the same reason that the premise of the novel "The Andromeda Strain" by Michael Crichton fails. The assumption is that space is so FILLED WITH ALIEN MICROBES that all we need do is to send a satellite up and "Scoop" them up. Yet when we finally looked for them, we found NO ALIEN MICROBES. This lack of evidence is solved by moving the so-called "microbial evidence" to dust clouds in space, far, far away. A logical argument is not proof of anything. I'm calling BS on Cosmos and the whole idea of a PLAGUE FROM SPACE. [6] [7]

Statute of Labourers

With the ongoing labor shortage in certain areas, the English Parliament passes yet another law to fix prices and wages at pre-Plague values. The Statue of Labourers also forbids workers from moving to more favorable economic areas. The penalty is prison until one can find something to guarantee compliance... like bail, but this law won't work either and guarantee the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The law of supply and demand cannot be repealed by Parliament no matter how many laws they pass. This law will simply create graft, a black market, and the desire to throw off their oppressive serfdom.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1351, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Cantor, Norman F. In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, Harper Perennial. 2001. pp. 178-192. (BOOK) quote="The theory that the Black Death originated in outer space dates back to a book published in 1979, Diseases From Space, by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe."
  2. Orent, Wendy. (Wendy Orent, bio). Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease, Free Press. 2004-May-4. pp. 170-171. (BOOK) quote="The plague retired from Western Europe, like typhus in the eighteenth century, at the moment when cakes of soap appeared, when the density of parasites began to roll back in the face of hygiene. At the present time, epidemic human plague is found exclusively in those countries where human parasites are still dense, even though rat plague continues to be endemic in all countries."
  3. Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim. (Barbara Tuchman, bio). A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Ballantine, 1979. "Chapter 5 - 'This Is the End of the World': The Black Death". (BOOK)
  4. Hoyle, Fred and Wickramasinghe, Chandra. Diseases from Space. England: Sphere Books. 1981. (BOOK)
  5. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Wikipedia, Episode 11, "The Immortals"
  6. Crichton, Michael. The Andromeda Strain. New York: Del Publishers. 1969. (NOVEL)
  7. FYI: If you find novels absorbing, check out The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. A time-traveling historian accidentally lands in England just as the Black Death hits. Willis describes despair in exquisite detail. Bring a hanky.... Willis, Connie. Doomsday Book. New York: Bantam Books. 1992. (NOVEL)
  8. Cantor, Norman F. Imagining the Law: Common Law and the Foundations of the American Legal System. New York: HarperCollins. 1997. p. 265. (BOOK) quote="The gentry response was to turn to their attorneys to draft legislation to put before Crown and Parliament fixing wages at the pre-Black Death level and also restricting the physical mobility of labor looking for better jobs."
  9. Statute of Laborers, 1351. Internet History Sourcebooks Project. 2014 [last update]
  10. Statute of Labourers 1351 - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. English Poor Laws: Medieval Poor Laws - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  12. Peasants' Revolt - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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