The Bubonic Plague

The bubonic plague ravaged many parts of the world in the centuries when it struck. What I want to know is how the BP changed the medieval landscape of Europe in regards to feudalism. From what I read many of the serfs and villeins were dead in a matter or days to weeks, which meant that the manorial lords faced severe labor shortages and gave the workers some leverage in order to improve their lot in life and eventually in time feudalism began to be seen as a not so viable way to structure a nation.

Start by reading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. Then move on to better analyses.

Your question is one that a number of universities devote entire courses to answering, BTW.

Suggested reading: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman is an excellent book on this subject. Short answer: it’s not as simple as your premise would suggest, but it’s a factor in changes.

ETA: Great minds think alike.

Strictly speaking, I think feudalism was already very much on the wane by then. Rather than an ascending hierarchy of liege lords and vassals, it was becoming more common to owe one’s loyalty directly to the king, as royal families consolidated their power vis-a-vis the nobility. This was also a contributing factor to the rise of nationalism.

IIRC Barbara Tuchman’s assessment was that “between one third and one half of Europe died.”

Another point is that the disease was spread by rats and fleabites, so larger population centers would have been affected more heavily. It was also the pneumonic form of the disease, meaning it spread by coughing and sneezing too - also more of a factor in larger population centers.

however, people fleeing the disease carried it to the countryside and other cities.

i suspect the issue was the labour shortage in the cities after. The lords might have found cooperation retrieving wayward serfs when the cities saw them as homeless beggars, a nuisance on the street; but they were less likely to cooperate when it meant losing a gainfully employed new stablehand or baker’s apprentice.

I don’t recall stories of poaching, but it would not surprise me that when there was arable land begging for a farmer, the lords who offered more (or were less oppressive) attracted more people. And like the cities, there was less incentive for two lords to cooperate when one was being asked to return a valuable farmer, not a nuisance vagabond.

Was it still by the 1350’s a case of being legally “tied to the land” or was it that until the labour shortage, nobody left the land because usually there was nowhere that welcomed them?

As a cash economy started to become more dominant, Feudal work (and military) duties were being replaced more and more often with cash payments in lieu of service. This also contributed to the erosion of the feudal system of vassalage and peasant/lord relationships.

Also, cities were able to recover from the plague economically much faster than the countryside because the much greater freedom in cities allowed labor to move more quickly into vacant niches.

I agree that the plague accelerated the decline of the feudal system. The massive deaths caused the price of labor to rise, making serfdom impossible to impose.
The really amazing thing was how many countries were affected-even remote Greenland had the plague-and it probably was a major factor in the decline of the colony.

In Britain, one of the big changes may be the move away from Latin and French.

Because the learned lived in close quarters, eg monks in monasteries, public servants in public servants houses, they died off more than non-learned types.
So in Britian, the Norman use of French language died out, as they had to employ English speakers to replace the dead Normans… And so English became the only language.
Did the same happen in Norway, Sweden, Netherlands ? etc,etc
One of the causes of the end of the Holy Roman Empire ?

The HRE for the most part existed till the early 19th century.

The government in England attempted to regulated the movement of the peasantry to exploit labour shortages in the Ordinance of Labourers and the later Statute of Labourers. The attempt was in vain, however. This book has some interesting insights on the impacts of the labour shrinkage and its effects on the lord/serf relationship in its part 3.