The Black Death
with Professor Mark Bailey (University of East Anglia)
at the Suffolk Punch Trust, Hollesley (IP12 3JR)
on Saturday, 22nd September, 2018.

The Black Death of 1348-49 is the greatest catastrophe in documented English history, killing nearly half the population and terrorizing the survivors. This course reveals the fruits of three years of new research and of re-thinking its impact upon the economy and society of late-fourteenth century England.

Provisional Programme

10.00 – 10.30:          Coffee on arrival

10.30 – 11.30:          Introduction – This session begins by exploring how recent research has led to a new aetiology of plague in the Middle Ages.  Historians have generally argued that the Black Death had little impact upon English society and economy until the later fourteenth century, but here we re-consider the scale of the crisis triggered by the first epidemic in 1348-9 and the extraordinary volatility of the late 1350s and 1360s.

11.30 – 11.50:          Coffee break

11.50 – 12.50:          Reaction c.1350 to c.1375 – The orthodox view is that landlords and government reacted to the Black Death by coercing and exploiting the peasantry into working on terms favourable to lords.  We will explore the reality of the new labour legislation, the response of landlords, changing social attitudes and key economic changes to construct a more nuanced and complex interpretive framework.

12.50 – 13.50:          Lunch break

13.50 – 14.40:          The post-lunch session will use new material drawn from across southern England to explore in more detail the issues discussed during the morning.  Participants will be provided with sources and data, and invited to contribute to open discussion.

14.40 – 15.00:          Tea break

15.00 – 15.50:          The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 and post-plague equilibrium – The revolt is traditionally portrayed as the watershed in social relations between lords and peasants, signalling the end for serfdom and the emergence of post-plague equilibrium.  This session considers new evidence for the causes of the revolt and offers a very different interpretation of the last quarter of the fourteenth century.
c.15.50:                   Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Specialist book with sources:

  1. Hatcher, The Black Death: an intimate history (2002)
  2. Horrox, ed., The Black Death (Manchester, 1994)


General introductions (readable but to be read with caution):

  1. Zeigler, The Black Death (various editions)
  2. Platt, King Death (London, 1996)
  3. Gummer, The Scourging Angel (2010)


About Mark Bailey

Mark Bailey is Professor of Later Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, and the author of various books and articles on medieval England, including Medieval Suffolk, and England in the Age of the Black Death (with Steve Rigby)He is the James Ford Lecturer in British History at the University of Oxford in 2018-2019.