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Government Caused Famine

Children cry out for bread but the cupboard is bare. This is NOT due to a bad harvest. England has a 5 year surplus. The government has debased the coinage (by reducing the silver and gold content) and prohibited the export of English raw wool which is a commodity so valuable that it could be considered a currency... almost. In the Middle Ages English wool is the foundation of the world textile industry but the wool producers can no longer sell it abroad and cannot sell it locally for what it is worth. Meanwhile, wages are reduced because there is literally no money to pay the workers. Coins are fewer in number and worth less. That means less food can be bought which leads to famine for the peasants, plain and simple. If you ever wondered why Hansel and Gretel were wandering around the dark woods looking for houses made out of food... now you know. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
When the currency is debased the merchants and farmers are stuck with the bill because they bought their inventory and seed with the full-value metal coin and now must sell their product in exchange for the reduced-value coin so they must set a higher price. Yet with the price freeze what they do is store the product or destroy it. Taxes to the King are being paid in wool rather than cash so the King must sell his wool to get his money. Thus he stops all exports until his wool is sold. Sometimes the king's ban on exports will last for nearly a year. This famine will continue for several years and will spark a famine in Flanders as well... the place where the wool exports are brokered.

Note: When studying the Middle Ages, one can often find out WHAT happened but not necessarily WHY it happened. Many things are left unsaid. It was tough finding out why King Richard stopped wool exports but it was worth finding out about the wool trade. --Alex Shrugged.

The Lithuanian Shuffle

Lithuania has been largely pagan, at least in the northern part, but with the Grand Duke of Lithuania converting to Christianity the Teutonic Knights are having a difficult time rallying the troops against him. The Teutonic Knights think his conversion is a shame but in the context of the day, he is doing nothing unusual. He converted to Christianity as a condition of marriage to Hedwig, the King of Poland. (Yes... "Hedy" carried the actual title of "King.") This year she opens negotiations with the Knights. Lithuania will sign a peace treaty with the Knights in 1398 in exchange for land that will act as a bridge to their brother Knights in the northeast. [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
In the Middle Ages the Christian leadership has been trying to get away from the Roman ideal of "might makes right," yet it persists even into the modern day. Some people still try to win people over to their religion by proving that their army is the stronger. In Roman times it would have been couched in terms of "If I beat you up and take your stuff it is because my gods are stronger than your gods." In the modern day this human tendency to believe "might makes right" has sprouted into Darwinism and "Survival of the Fittest." Thus... if I am able to beat you up and take your stuff it is because I am more deserving to survive and you are not. It is the basis for Nazism.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1390, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Farr, William. The Influence of Scarcities and of the High Prices of Wheat on the Mortality of the People of England. Journal of the Statistical Society of London , Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jun., 1846), Royal Statistical Society. p. 162. (JOURNAL)
  2. Power, Eileen Edna. The Wool Trade In English Medieval History. London: Oxford University Press. 1941. p. 47. (PUBLISHED LECTURES) quote="What happened in each case was that this group had to advance money to the crown on the wool granted to the king, and to dispose of it on his behalf. The king was, in almost every case, compelled to impose an embargo on general export for a time (sometimes a whole year) in order to enable his financiers to dispose of the wool on his behalf."
  3. Hansel and Gretel - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Great Famine of 1315-17 - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Famines of the Middle Ages. Medievality.com, 2014 [last update] | quote="Overall, famines were relatively common during the Middle Ages with the average person being affected by three or four during their lifetime."
  6. Sanderson, Beck. England, Scotland, and Ireland 1250-1400. 2011 [last update]
  7. Debasement - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Walford, Cornelius. (V.P. of the Royal Historical Society) The Famines of the World, Past and Present. London: Edward Stanford (publisher). 1879. pp. 8, 10. (BOOK) quote="By means of changing the coine all things became very deere, whereof an extreame famine did arise, and afflict the multitude of the people, even to death. (A report from John Penkethman, 1638.)"
  9. Treaty of Salynas - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Wladyslaw II Jagiello - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Hedy Lamarr - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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