After the Black Death: labour legislation and attitudes towards labour in late‐medieval western Europe

Published Online:
02 Oct 2006
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 60 Issue 3

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The Black Death spurred monarchies and city‐states across much of Western Europe to formulate new wage and price legislation. These legislative acts splintered in a multitude of directions that to date defy any obvious patterns of economic or political rationality. A comparison of labour laws in England, France, Provence, Aragon, Castile, the Low Countries, and the city‐states of Italy shows that these laws did not flow logically from new post‐plague demographics and economics—the realities of the supply and demand for labour. Instead, the new municipal and royal efforts to control labour and artisans’ prices emerged from fears of the greed and supposed new powers of subaltern classes and are better understood in the contexts of anxiety that sprung forth from the Black Death’s new horrors of mass mortality and destruction, resulting in social behaviour such as the flagellant movement and the persecution of Jews, Catalans, and beggars.

© Economic History Society

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