Munro, John H. (2004): Before and after the Black Death: money, prices, and wages in fourteenth-century England. Published in: New Approaches to the History of Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Selected Proceedings of Two International Conferences at The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters in Copenhagen, Historisk-filosofiske Meddelser , Vol. 104, (February 2009): pp. 335-364.
Download (591Kb) | Preview
One of the most common myths in European economic history, and indeed in Economics itself, is that the Black Death of 1347-48, followed by other waves of bubonic plague, led to an abrupt rise in real wages, for both agricultural labourers and urban artisans – one that led to the so-called ‘Golden Age of the English Labourer’, lasting until the early 16th century. While there is no doubt that real-wages in mid- to late- 15th century England did reach a peak far higher than that ever achieved in past centuries, real wages in England did not, in fact, rise in the immediate aftermath of the Black Death. In southern England, real wages of building craftsmen (rural and urban), having plummeted with the natural disaster of the Great Famine (1315-21), thereafter rose to a new peak in 1336-40. But then their real wages fell during the 1340s, and continued their decline after the onslaught of the Black Death, indeed into the 1360s. Not until the later 1370s – almost thirty years after the Black Death – did real wages finally recover and then rapidly surpass the peak achieved in the late 1330s. Thereafter, the rise in real wages was more or less continuous, though at generally slower rates, during the 15th century, reaching a peak in 1476-80 – at a level not thereafter surpassed until 1886-90, by the usual methods of calculating real wages with index numbers: i.e., by NWI/CPI = RWI [nominal wage index divided by the consumer price index equals the real wage index]. Most of the textbooks that still perpetuate the myth about the role of the Black Death in raising real wages, as an almost immediate consequence, employ a demographic model based on Ricardian economics, which predicts (ceteris paribus) that depopulation will result in falling grain prices and thus in falling rents on grain-producing lands (on land in general) and in rising real wages. The fall in population – perhaps as much as 50 percent by the late 15th century (from the 1310 peak) – presumably altered the land:labour ratio sufficiently to increase the marginal productivity of labour and thus its real wage (though in economic theory the real wage is determined by the marginal revenue product of labour). The rise in real wages would also have been a product of the fall in the cost of living, chiefly determined by bread-grain prices, whose decline would have been the inevitable result of both the abandonment of high-cost marginal lands and the rise in the marginal productivity of agricultural labour. But the evidence produced in this study demonstrates that the Black Death was followed, in England, by almost thirty years of high grain prices – high in both nominal and real terms; and that was a principal reason for the post-Plague behaviour of real wages. This study differs from all traditional models by examining the role of monetary forces in producing deflation in the second and final quarters of the fourteenth century, but severe inflation in between those quarters (i.e., from the early 1340s to the mid 1370s). The analysis of the evidence on money, prices, and wages in this study concludes that monetary forces and the consequent behaviour of the price level – in terms of those deflations and intervening inflation – were the most powerful determinant of the level of real wages (i.e., in terms of the formula: NWI/CPI = RWI). Thus the undisputed rise in nominal or money wages following the Black Death was literally ‘swamped’ by the post-Plague inflation, so that real wages fell. Conversely, the rise of real wages in the second quarter of the fourteenth century was principally due to a deflation in which consumer prices fell much more than did nominal wages. In the final quarter of the century, the even stronger rise in real wages was principally due to another deflation in which consumer prices fell sharply, but one in which, for the first time in recorded English history, nominal wages did not fall: an era that inaugurated the predominance of wage-stickiness in English labour markets for the next six centuries. But that perplexing phenomenon of downward wage-stickiness must be left to other studies. The 14th century is the most violent one before the 20th; and violent disruptions from plague, war, and civil unrest undoubtedly produced severe supply shocks and high (relative) prices. Europe also experienced more severe oscillations in monetary changes and consequently in price levels – i.e., the aforesaid deflations and intervening inflation – during the 14th century than in any other before the 20th.
|Item Type:||MPRA Paper|
|Original Title:||Before and after the Black Death: money, prices, and wages in fourteenth-century England|
|Keywords:||money; prices; nominal wages; real wages; consumer price index; inflation; deflation; Black Death; demographic changes; warfare; bullion flows; coinage debasements; building trades; masons; agricultural labourers; labour productivity;|
|Subjects:||I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I3 - Welfare and Poverty > I30 - General
E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics > E3 - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles > E31 - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics > E5 - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit > E51 - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
N - Economic History > N1 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations > N13 - Europe: Pre-1913
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J0 - General > J01 - Labor Economics: General
N - Economic History > N4 - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation > N44 - Europe: 1913-
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J3 - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs > J30 - General
N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy > N33 - Europe: Pre-1913
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J4 - Particular Labor Markets > J40 - General
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J2 - Demand and Supply of Labor > J21 - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
E - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics > E4 - Money and Interest Rates > E40 - General
|Depositing User:||John H. A. MUNRO|
|Date Deposited:||16. Jun 2009 00:49|
|Last Modified:||11. Feb 2013 20:10|
Abel, Wilhelm, Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjunktur, 3rd edn. (Berlin, 1978; 1st edn. 1966): translated by Olive Ordish as Agricultural Fluctuations in Europe from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Centuries (London, 1980).
Allen, Martin, ‘The Volume and Composition of the English Silver Currency, 1279 - 1351’, British Numismatic Journal, 70 (2000), 38-44. Allen, Martin , ‘The Volume of the English Currency, 1158 - 1470’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 54:4 (November 2001), 595-611.
Ames, Edward, ‘The Sterling Crisis of 1337-1339,’ Journal of Economic History, 25 (1965), 496-552, reprinted in Roderick Floud, ed., Essays in Quantitative Economic History (Oxford, 1974), pp. 36-58.
Beveridge, William, ‘Wages in the Winchester Manors’, Economic History Review, 1st ser., 7 (1936-37), 22-43.
Beveridge, William, ‘Westminster Wages in the Manorial Era,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 8 (1955-56), 18 - 35.
Blanchard, Ian, ‘Labour Productivity and Work Psychology in the English Mining Industry, 1400 - 1600,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 31:1 (February 1978), 1-24.
Boccaccio, Giovanni, The Decameron, trans. J.M. Rigg (London, 1921).
Bolton, J. L. , ‘The World Upside Down’: Plague as an Agent of Economic and Social Change’, in Mark Ormrod and Phillip Lindley, eds., The Black Death in England (Stamford, 1996), pp. 17-78
Braunstein, Philippe, ‘Innovations in Mining and Metal Production in Europe in the Late Middle Ages,’ Journal of European Economic History, 12 (1983), 573-91,
Brooke, G.C., and E. Stokes, ‘Tables of Bullion Coined from 1337 to 1550,’ The Numismatic Chronicle, 5th ser., 9 (1929), 27-69
Campbell, Bruce M., ‘Agricultural Progress in Medieval England: Some Evidence from Eastern Norfolk,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 36 (Feb. 1983), 26-46.
Campbell, Bruce M., ‘Arable Productivity in Medieval England: Some Evidence from Norfolk,’ Journal of Economic History, 43 (1983), 379-404.
Campbell, Bruce M., ‘Population Pressure, Inheritance, and the Land Market in a Fourteenth-Century Peasant Community,’ in Richard M. Smith, ed., Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 87 - 134.
Campbell, Bruce M., English Seigniorial Agriculture, 1250 - 1450, Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography no. 31 (Cambridge and New York, 2000).
Campbell, R. , The London Tradesman  (republished New York, 1969).
Cassell, Anthony, ‘Boccaccio, Giovanni’, in Joseph Strayer, et al, eds., Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 13 vols. (New York, 1982 - 89), Vol. II, pp. 277-90.
Challis, Christopher, ‘Appendix 1: Mint Output, 1220-1985,’ in Christopher Challis, ed., A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 673-698
Clapham, John H., An Economic History of Modern Britain, vol. II: The Early Railway Age, 1820 - 1850 (Cambridge, 1964), pp. 572-78.
Delepierre, Octave, and M.F. Willems, eds., Collection des keuren ou statuts de tous les métiers de Bruges (Ghent, 1842).
Espinas, Georges, and Henri Pirenne, eds., Recueil de documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie drapière en Flandre: Ire partie: des origines à l'époque bourguignonne, 4 vols. (Brussels, 1906-1920).
Farmer, David, ‘Crop Yields, Prices and Wages in Medieval England’, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 6 (1983), 117-55,
Farmer, David , ‘Prices and Wages, 1350-1500', in Edward Miller, ed., The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. III: 1348-1500 (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 467-90, 516-24 (Tables H and I).
Farmer, David, ‘Prices and Wages [1042-1350]’, in H. E. Hallam, ed., The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol. II: 1042-1350 (Cambridge, 1988), pp 760-78, 811-17 (Table F).
Feavearyear, Albert, The Pound Sterling: a History of English Money, 2nd edn. revised by E.V. Morgan (Oxford, 1963).
Great Britain, Record Commission (T.E. Tomlins, et. al, eds), The Statutes of the Realm, 6 vols. (London, 1810-22).
Hallam, H. E., ‘Population Movements in England, 1086-1350’, in H.E. Hallam, ed., Agrarian History of England and Wales, II: 1042-1350 (Cambridge, 1988). pp. 508-93
Hamilton, Earl, Money, Prices, and Wages in Valencia, Aragon, and Navarre, 1351 - 1500 (Cambridge, Mass., 1936).
Harvey, Barbara, ‘The Population Trend in England Between 1300 and 1348’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 16 (1966), 23-42.
Harvey, Barbara, ‘Introduction: the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century,’ in Bruce M.S. Campbell, ed., Before the Black Death: Studies in the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century (Manchester and New York, 1991), pp. 1 - 24.
Hatcher, John, Plague, Population, and the English Economy, 1348-1530 (London, 1977).
Hatcher, John, ‘England in the Aftermath of the Black Death,’ Past & Present, no. 144 (August 1994), pp. 3-35.
Herlihy, David, Medieval and Renaissance Pistoia: The Social History of an Italian Town, 1200 -1430 (New Haven, 1967).
Herlihy, David, and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Tuscans and Their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427 (New Haven, 1985)
Hilton, Rodney, ‘Some Social and Economic Evidence in Late-Medieval English Tax Returns’, in R.H. Hilton, ed., Class Conflict and the Crisis of Feudalism (London, 1985), pp. 253-67.
Knoop, Douglas, and G.P. Jones, ‘Masons’ Wages in Medieval England’, Economic History, 2 (Jan. 1933), 473-99.
Knoop, Douglas, and G.P. Jones, The Mediaeval Mason: An Economic History of English Stone Building in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, 3rd edn. (Manchester, 1967).
Kovacevic, D. , ‘Les mines d'or et d'argent en Serbie et en Bosnie médiévales’, Annales: E.S.C., 15 (1960), 248-58.
Lane, Frederic, ‘The First Infidelities of the Venetian Lire,’ in Harry A. Miskimin, David Herlihy, and A. L. Udovitch, eds., The Medieval City (New Haven and London, 1977), pp. 52-9.
Lopez, Robert, ‘Hard Times and Investment in Culture’, in Wallace Ferguson, et al., eds., The Renaissance (New York, 1962), pp. 29-52.
Mate, Mavis, ‘High Prices in Early Fourteenth-Century England: Causes and Consequences’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 28 (1975), 1-16.
Mate, Mavis, ‘The Role of Gold Coinage in the English Economy, 1338 - 1400', Numismatic Chronicle, 7th ser. 18 (1978), 126-41.
Mayhew, Nicholas, ‘Numismatic Evidence and Falling Prices in the Fourteenth Century’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 27 (1974), 1-15.
Mayhew, Nicholas, ‘Money and Prices in England from Henry II to Edward III’, Agricultural History Review, 35:2 (1987), 121-32.
Mayhew, Nicholas, ‘Population, Money Supply, and the Velocity of Circulation in England, 1300 - 1700,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 48:2 (May 1995), 238-57.
Miskimin, Harry, The Economy of Early Renaissance Europe, 1300 - 1460 (Cambridge, 1975)
Munro, John, Wool, Cloth and Gold: The Struggle for Bullion in Anglo-Burgundian Trade, ca. 1340-1478 (Brussels, 1973).
Munro, John, ‘Mint Policies, Ratios, and Outputs in England and the Low Countries, 1335-1420: Some Reflections on New Data,’ The Numismatic Chronicle, 141 (1981), 71-116, reprinted in John Munro, Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350 -1500, Variorum Collected Series CS 355 (London, 1992).
Munro, John, ‘Bullion Flows and Monetary Contraction in Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries,’ in John F. Richards, ed., Precious Metals in the Later Medieval and Early Modern Worlds (Durham, 1983), pp. 97-158; reprinted in John Munro, Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350-1500 (London-Aldershot, 1992).
Munro, John, ‘Mint Outputs, Money, and Prices in Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries,’ in Eddy Van Cauwenberghe and Franz Irsigler, eds., Münzprägung, Geldumlauf und Wechselkurse/ Minting, Monetary Circulation and Exchange Rates, Trierer Historische Forschungen, 7: Akten des 8th International Economic History Congress, Section C-7, Budapest 1982 (Trier, 1984), pp. 31-122.
Munro, John, ‘Monnayage, monnaies de compte, et mutations monétaires au Brabant à la fin du moyen âge,’ in John Day, ed., Études d'histoire monétaire, XIIe - XIXe siècles, Études de l'Université de Paris VII et du Centre National des Lettres (Lille, 1984), pp. 263-94; reprinted in John Munro, Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350 -1500, Variorum Collected Series CS 355 (London, 1992).
Munro, John, ‘The Central European Mining Boom, Mint Outputs, and Prices in the Low Countries and England, 1450 - 1550’, in Eddy H.G. Van Cauwenberghe, ed., Money, Coins, and Commerce: Essays in the Monetary History of Asia and Europe (From Antiquity to Modern Times), Studies in Social and Economic History, Vol. 2 (Leuven, 1991), pp. 119 - 83;
Munro, John, ‘Industrial Transformations in the North-west European Textile Trades, c.1290 - c.1340: Economic Progress or Economic Crisis?’, in Bruce M.S. Campbell, ed., Before the Black Death: Studies in the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century (Manchester and New York, 1991), pp. 110 - 48
Munro, John, Bullion Flows and Monetary Policies in England and the Low Countries, 1350 - 1500, Variorum Collected Studies series CS 355 (Aldershot, 1992).
Munro, John, ‘Urban Wage Structures in Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries: Work-Time and Seasonal Wages’, in Ian Blanchard, ed., Labour and Leisure in Historical Perspective, Thirteenth to Twentieth Centuries, Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Beiheft series no. 116 (Stuttgart, 1994), pp. 65-78.
Munro, John: review of David Hackett Fischer, The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History (Oxford, 1996), for EH.Net Review <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 24 February 1999.
Munro, John, ‘The Monetary Origins of the ‘Price Revolution’ Before the Influx of Spanish-American Treasure: The South German Silver-Copper Trades, Merchant-Banking, and Venetian Commerce, 1470-1540’, in Dennis Flynn, Arturo Giráldez, and Richard von Glahn ed., Global Connections and Monetary History, 1470 - 1800 (Aldershot and Brookfield, Vt: Ashgate Publishing, 2003), pp. 1-34.
Munro, John, ‘Wage Stickiness, Monetary Changes, and Real Incomes in Late-Medieval England and the Low Countries, 1300 - 1500: Did Money Matter?’ Research in Economic History, 21 (2003), 185 - 297.
Nef, John U., ‘Mining and Metallurgy in Medieval Civilization’, in M.M. Postan, ed., Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Vol. II: Trade and Industry in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1952), pp. 456-69; revised edn. (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 696-734.
Penn, Simon, and Christopher Dyer, ‘Wages and Earnings in Late Medieval England: Evidence from Enforcement of the Labour Laws’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 43:3 (August 1990), 356-76.
Phelps Brown, E.H., and Sheila V. Hopkins, ‘Seven Centuries of Building Wages,’ Economica, 22 (August 1955), reprinted in E.M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, 3 vols. (London, 1954-62), Vol. II, pp. 168-78, 179-96, and in E.H. Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins, A Perspective of Wages and Prices (London, 1981), pp. 1-13.
Phelps Brown, E.H., and S.V. Hopkins, ‘Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables, Compared with Builders’ Wage Rates’, Economica, 23 (November 1956): reprinted in E.M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, 3 vols. (London, 1954-62), Vol. II, pp. 168-78, 179-96, and in E.H. Phelps Brown and Sheila V. Hopkins, A Perspective of Wages and Prices (London, 1981), pp. 1-13.
Platt, Colin, King Death: The Black Death and Its Aftermath in Late-Medieval England (London and Toronto, 1996).
Poos, Lawrence , ‘The Rural Population of Essex in the Later Middle Ages,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 38 (November 1985), 515 - 30; Lawrence R. Poos, A Rural Society after the Black Death: Essex, 1350 - 1525 (Cambridge, 1991).
Postan, Michael M., ‘The Economic Foundations of Medieval Society,’ Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie, 161 (1951), reprinted in his Essays on Medieval Agriculture and General Problems of the Medieval Economy (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 3 - 27.
Postan, Michael M., ‘Some Economic Evidence of Declining Population in the Later Middle Ages,’ Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 2 (1950), 130-67; reprinted in his Essays on Medieval Agriculture and General Problems of the Medieval Economy (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 186 - 213, with the revised title of ‘Some Agrarian Evidence of Declining Population in the Later Middle Ages’.
Postan, Michael M., ‘The Trade of Medieval Europe: the North’, in M.M. Postan and E.E. Rich, eds., Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Vol. II: Trade and Industry in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1952), pp. 119-256; republished, with a few changes, in the 2nd revised edn, ed. M.M. Postan and Edward Miller (Cambridge, 1887), pp. 168-305; and in M. M. Postan, Medieval Trade and Finance (Cambridge, 1973), pp. 92-31 (with bibliography).
Postan, Michael M., ‘Medieval Agrarian Society: England,’ in M. M. Postan, ed., Cambridge Economic History, Vol. I: The Agrarian Life of the Middle Ages, 2nd rev. edn. (Cambridge, 1966), pp. 560-70.
Postan, Michael M., The Medieval Economy and Society: An Economic History of Britain, 1100-1500 (Cambridge, 1972).
Prestwich, Michael, ‘Currency and the Economy of Early Fourteenth-Century England’, in Nicholas Mayhew, ed., Edwardian Monetary Affairs, 1279-1344 (British Archeological Reports, BAR International Series, no. 36 (Oxford, 1977), pp. 45-58'
Putnam, B.H., The Enforcement of the Statute of Labourers during the First Decade after the Black Death (New York, 1908).
Riley, H. T., ed., Munimenta Gildhallae Londoniensis: Vol. II: Liber Custumarum, 2 vols. (London, 1860).
Riley, H. T., ed., Memorials of London and London Life, in the XIIIth, XIVth, and XVth Centuries: From the Archives of the City of London, A.D. 1276-1419 (London, 1868)
Ritchie (née Kenyon), Nora , ‘Labour Conditions in Essex in the Reign of Richard II’, Economic History Review, 1st ser., 4:4 (1934), reissued in revised form in E.M. Carus-Wilson, ed., Essays in Economic History, 3 vols., II (London, 1962), pp. 91-112.
Rogers, James E. Thorold, History of Agriculture and Prices in England, from the Year After the Oxford Parliament (1259) to the Commencement of the Continental War (1793), 7 vols. (Oxford, 1866-1902).\
Sharpe, R. R., ed., Calendar of Letter-Books Preserved Among the Archives of the City of London at the Guildhall: Letter-Book G. c.A.D. 1352-1374 (London, 1905) and Letter Book H., c.A.D. 1375-1399 (London, 1907).
Smith, Richard, ‘Demographic Developments in Rural England, 1300-48: a Survey,’ in Bruce M.S. Campbell, ed., Before the Black Death: Studies in the ‘Crisis’ of the Early Fourteenth Century (Manchester and New York, 1991), pp. 25 - 78
Sosson, Jean-Pierre, Les travaux de la ville de Bruges, XIVe - XVe siècles: les matériaux, les hommes, Collection Histoire Pro Civitate no. 48 (Brussels, 1977).
Spufford, Peter, Handbook of Medieval Exchange, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks no. 13 (London, 1986).
Spufford, Peter, Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1988).
Westermann, Ekkehard, ‘Zur Silber- und Kupferproduktion Mitteleuropas vom 15. bis zum frühen 17. Jahrhundert: über Bedeutung und Rangfolge der Reviere von Schwaz, Mansfeld und Neusohl,’ Der Anschnitt: Zeitschrift für Kunst und Kultur im Bergbau, 38 (May-June 1986), 187 - 211.
Woodward, Donald , ‘Wage Rates and Living Standards in Pre-Industrial England,’ Past and Present, No. 91 (May 1981), 28-46.
Woodward, Donald , Men at Work: Labourers and Building Craftsmen in the Towns of Northern England, 1450 - 1750 (Cambridge, 1995).