The Economic Foundations of the Sixteenth Century
Europe did not begin to recover from the effects of the Black Death (1347) until the middle of the fifteenth century, although both the full extent of the disaster and the speed of recovery are difficult to assess. Statistical evidence is hard to come by and the little that is available needs careful interpretation. Only the wealthier cities made a census of their population, and generalisations about the rest of Europe can only be supported from a variety of sources which include parish registers, tax assessments, returns of able-bodied men for military service and the published guesses of contemporaries. If all these are taken together, however, they demonstrate that the Black Death of 1347, its subsequent and equally severe outbreaks, and its coincidence with a prolonged period of tempestuous weather, crop failure and cattle disease, reduced Europe’s population by one-fifth, perhaps by one-quarter.
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