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The Prospect of Global History$
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James Belich, John Darwin, Margret Frenz, and Chris Wickham

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732259

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732259.001.0001

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The Black Death and the Spread of Europe

The Black Death and the Spread of Europe

(p.93) 5 The Black Death and the Spread of Europe
The Prospect of Global History

James Belich

Oxford University Press

There is a paradox about the beginning of European expansion in the fifteenth century. This was a time when Europe had only half its normal population, due to the ravages of the Black Death, 1347–52, and its successor epidemics. This essay attempts, first, to resolve some enduring mysteries about the Black Death: What was it? Where was it? How many people did it kill? It then argues that, counter-intuitively, plague had some positive effects on living standards and per capita trade. It also triggered significant restructuring in technology, politics, and socio-economy, which may actually have encouraged and facilitated European expansion.

Keywords:   Black Death, plague, Europe, late medieval economy, late medieval trade, early modern European expansion

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