The Black Death
with Professor Mark Bailey (University of East Anglia)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 22nd November, 2014.

The Black Death of 1348-9 is the greatest catastrophe in documented history, killing nearly half the population and terrorizing the survivors.  This course explores the latest ideas about what caused it, how people reacted to it, and how it changed life in England.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:         Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:         What was the Black Death?

This introductory session looks at the nature and characteristics of the Black Death, and assesses its spread, mortality rates and identity.  It also looks at contemporary explanations.  We will look at some of the sources available which reveal the passage of the disease through local communities, and their responses.

11.15 – 11.45:         Coffee break

11.45 – 12.45:         Political and religious responses.

The immediate responses of the government and of religious authorities to the Black Death are explored, including an assessment of their effectiveness.  We will also consider the longer term changes in religious practice of the late fourteenth century.

12.45 – 14.00:         Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00:         Economic and social consequences.

Some contemporaries believed that the Black Death turned the world upside down, while many historians have argued that it had little immediate impact on everyday life.  The changes to life in towns and villages will be explored, and the links between the pestilence and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 will be discussed.

15.00 – 15.20:        Tea break

15.20 – 16.15:         Artistic and cultural responses /


Longer term changes in art and literature are assessed, including a discussion of how social and economic developments impacted on the literature of the period, and especially Chaucer’s prologue to the Canterbury Tales. The conclusion will pull together the day’s course, but will also consider why we should continue to study the Black Death, and its relevance to today.

c.16.15:                   Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Bailey, M., Medieval Suffolk: An Economic and Social History, 1200-1500 (Woodbridge 2007)

Hatcher, J., The Black Death: an intimate history (London, 2008)

Horrox, R. (ed.), The Black Death (Manchester, 1995)

Ormord, M., & P.Lindley (eds), The Black Death in England (Stamford, 1996)

Zeigler, P., The Black Death (London, 1969, 2003)

About Mark Bailey

ark Bailey is Professor of Later Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, and the author of various books and articles on medieval England, including Medieval Suffolk, England in the Age of the Black Death (with Steve Rigby), and The decline of