"The whole of England was thrown into madness" : English church and state responses to economic, religious, and social disruptions after the Black Death.


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Between 1348 and 1350, an outbreak of plague, known as the Black Death, reached England and destroyed between one-third and one-half of the population. This demographic devastation disrupted England’s traditional order economically, religiously, and socially. In the long term, these disruptions were potentially beneficial to the poor. For society’s elites, however, these disruptions threatened their traditional authority and position in society. This thesis examines how elites in the church and government, together as the ruling institutions of England, responded to changes and challenges in the economic, religious, and social spheres of English society in the half century after the Black Death. While the church and government often operated independently in these responses, they shared the same general goals, which were to mitigate change, preserve the traditional social hierarchy, and stabilize society. Nevertheless, elites frequently were forced to sacrifice traditional policies and powers in order to foster stability in society.



Black Death. Plague. Pestilence. English church. English government. Elite responses.