The Black Death: collapse, resilience, transformation

Cohn, S. (2023) The Black Death: collapse, resilience, transformation. In: Centeno, M., Callahan, P., Larcey, P. and Patterson, T. (eds.) How Worlds Collapse: What History, Systems, and Complexity Can Teach Us About Our Modern World and Fragile Future. Routledge: New York, pp. 192-206. ISBN 9781032363219 (doi: 10.4324/9781003331384-13)

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This chapter explores the consequences of the Black Death, which in less than four years leveled a greater proportion of populations in Europe and the Middle East than any event from the beginnings of documentary history to the present. These consequences embrace the three principal upshots analyzed in our conference’s proceedings: Collapse, resilience, and transformation. During the summer months of 1348 and immediately afterward reports by contemporaries evoked the first reaction, picturing the world’s end in apocalyptic language and images. Over the longer term, however, silver linings begin to appear, showing resilience and economic, social, religious, and psychological transformation. Further, this chapter argues that transformation characterizes these changes better than resilience or simply a return to earlier forms of agricultural organization, population levels, patterns of fertility and mortality, crop yields, diets, settlement patterns, declines in economic inequality, charity, notions of the afterlife, and other attitudes that had prevailed before 1348. Yet these transformations did not spring forth immediately and in places began only a generation or two after the Black Death. Some of these endured for a century as with the narrowing in the gap in wealth between rich and poor, while other transformations, such as “promiscuous agriculture” that integrated the cultivation of cereal crops with vineyards, olive groves, and animal husbandry, endured across Mediterranean Europe into the second half of the twentieth century and in places, even later.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, S.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 Routledge
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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