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The Great Slump, the Lousy Password

The Great Depression of the Middle Ages is called "The Great Slump." It began with a series of crop failures and livestock disease that led to a shortage of wool. This caused the cloth trade to drop off 35% to as much as 90% in some areas. This led to riots in England where the best wool comes from and a revolt in Ghent, Flanders where the best weavers work. The weavers guild declared a general strike last year and Duke Phillip the Good of Burgundy has declared war on the weavers. They will hold him off using "Mad Meg"[1], a sister of "Mons Meg," the monster cannon. Phillip the Good will hang every enemy combatant he captures except for a small company who guesses the password and makes it's way past the Burgundy troops. What is the password? "Burgundy." [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Why does the Duke of Burgundy care what happens in Flanders? Many of the aristocracy hold several titles based on marriages and inheritances. Phillip the Good is also the Count of Flanders. Part of the reason for this revolt is a shortage of silver in the economy. Transactions use either coin or barter and when there is a coin shortage they use WOOL as the main barter item. With the current shortage of wool you begin to see the problem. Wool is not just the material used for the workers to turn into cloth. WOOL IS MONEY TOO! How does one pay the workers, and buy supplies? Where is the money for financing the farm plots that the yeomen need? When money can't circulate, the economy breaks down into its most primitive forms. When even barter isn't working... riots ensue.

China: Praying for the Grand Canal

The Yangtze River or "Yellow River" has flooded yet again, knocking out the Great Canal that links the northern Chinese Capital of Beijing with coastal merchant traffic. After the flood of 1448 , several expensive improvements to the dykes were made to control flooding. Those improvements have washed away along with most of the usefulness of the Grand Canal. It is filled with silt. The Emperor has decided to build two temples in order to pray to the river gods to be good... Good luck with that one. [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Maintenance of the dykes along the Yangtze River will be an ongoing and very large expense, leading to opportunities for embezzlement of those funds. The idea that government officials might enrich themselves at the expense of vital and lifesaving facilities such as dykes to hold back the floods reminds me of when Hurricane Katrina (a force 3 hurricane) knocked out the dykes at New Orleans and Congressman William Jefferson (DEMOCRAT) was caught with $90,000 in his freezer. I don't know if he had much to do with the dykes but it was his district and he was convicted of accepting $500,000 in bribes. He began serving his 13-year sentence in 2012 in Beaumont, Texas. [11] [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1452, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Dulle Griet - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  2. Revolt of Ghent (1449-53) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. John and William Merfold - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Jack Cade - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Great Slump (15th century) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  6. Great Depression - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  7. 1452 Yellow River floods - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. 1448 Yellow River flood - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  9. Yellow River - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Jingtai Emperor - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Gernet, Jacques. (translated by Foster, J. R. and Hartman, Charles) A History of Chinese Civilization. Cambridge University Press. 1996. p. 494. (BOOK) Quote: "The officials in charge of these tasks embezzled state funds and seven big floods of the Yellow River occurred during the Chia-ch'ing era (1798-1820), in spite of the considerable funds allocated to the repair of breaches in the dykes."
  12. CNN.com - Affidavit: $90,000 found in congressman's freezer - May 22, 2006, cnn.com, 2014 [last update] Quote: "Federal agents searched the Capitol Hill office of a Louisiana congressman under investigation on bribery charges Sunday, while newly released court papers said agents found $90,000 in cash last year in his Washington home."
  13. William J. Jefferson - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]

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