The population dramatically decreased prior to the Peasant’s Revolt in 1381; the Black Death alone killed almost 50% of the population in 1349, and this was promptly followed by the Grey Death, famine, and the continuation of the Hundred Years War. It was as a result of this population decline, however, that the Peasant’s revolt was sparked – although the church also contributed to the outbreak, as did the Poll tax and the work of the king, Richard II.
The dramatic decline in population prior to the Peasants Revolt of 1381 was an almost direct result of the Black Death that plagued the country in 1349; almost 50% of the population was killed, and massive famine spread across the country due to the shortage of labour – coupled with heavy rains and frosts that helped decimate the crops. This shortage of labour meant that many peasants felt they could demand higher wages; landowners were desperate, and therefore not in a position to have lower wages than others – the peasants would have simply left and moved on. As a result of the increased wages, merchants and other businessmen had increased their prices in order to make the most of the peasant’s fortunate situation. However, as the nobles were losing out whilst the peasants were profiting from the devastation, the King introduced the Ordinance of Labourers in 1349 in a vain attempt to freeze wages paid to labourers and peasants at their pre-plague levels. In particular, it fixed wages and imposed price controls, required all those under 60 to work – which was practically the entire population at a time when the life expectancy was roughly 38 –, and prohibited the enticing away of another’s servant. The Ordinance was largely seen as ineffective, and the Statute of Labourers that was introduced two years later, in 1351, by the Parliament was just as unsuccessful. However, whilst the Statute of Labourers was poorly enforced, it did set a guide for those who were able to work, and those that were not. In addition...
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