In the Wake of the Plague - Black Death Essay examples

971 Words Jul 15th, 2006 4 Pages
Norman F. Cantor, In the Wake of the Plague (New York: Harper Collins First Perennial edition, 2001) examines how the bubonic plague, or Black Death, affected Europe in the fourteenth century. Cantor recounts specific events in the time leading up to the plague, during the plague, and in the aftermath of the plague. He wrote the book to relate the experiences of victims and survivors and to illustrate the impact that the plague had on the government, families, religion, the social structure, and art.
To illustrate some of the political upheaval due to the Black Death, a good example Cantor uses is the story of the Plantagenets. If the Black Death had not killed so many peasants who made up the army, the Plantagenets may have become
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57).
Cantor details how the plague changed social structure. The plague killed so many peasants that the remaining peasants were demanding lower rents and higher wages. There was a peasant revolt in 1381 which almost eliminated the royal government. Richard II had some of the peasant leaders killed, and the revolt was shut down. The result was a further divide between the classes. Wealthier peasants were able to take advantage of the "social dislocation caused by the plague, and poorer peasants sank further into dependence and misery" (p. 90-91). Peasants had formerly identified their place in society by who their lord was. Now that their world of feudalism was vanishing, they felt displaced, confused and anxious (p. 100). "Violence, drunkenness, and physical accidents were prevalent" (p. 95).
Cantor highlights some of the effects that the Black Death had on religion. The plague had a huge impact on the church because almost forty percent of parish clergy had died from the plague. The change was made to ordain priests at age twenty instead of twenty five, and a priest could take over a church at age twenty. Fifteen-year-olds could receive monastic vows, instead of having to wait until they were twenty. These were "undereducated and inexperienced people" (p. 206) and this indirectly contributed to the spread of the Lollards, who were radical heretics (p.207)
The Lollards attacked the morality of the church, and the

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