I am grateful to John Hatcher, Mark Bailey, participants at seminars at Cambridge and Oxford, and three anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this article. I am also grateful to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster for permission to work on the account rolls for Westminster Abbey and to the staff of the Muniments Room there and at Cambridge University Library; Merton College, Oxford; Norwich Record Office; Canterbury Cathedral Archives; the National Archives; the British Library; London Metropolitan Archives; and the Hampshire Record Office for their assistance with this research. I also thank Richard Smith for lending me his microfilm of the Hinderclay accounts, which are housed at the University of Chicago Library. As a part-time historian but full-time dad, this research would not have been possible without the generosity and forbearance of Tessa Stone and Corinne and Ian Niblett.
The impact of drought in early fourteenth-century England†
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2013
© Economic History Society 2013
The Economic History Review
Volume 67, Issue 2, pages 435–462, May 2014
How to Cite
Stone, D. (2014), The impact of drought in early fourteenth-century England. The Economic History Review, 67: 435–462. doi: 10.1111/1468-0289.12035
- Issue published online: 8 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 23 DEC 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 22 JUL 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 26 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Received: 28 MAR 2012
Climatic change is currently viewed as one of the main causes of the so-called crisis of the early fourteenth century. It is well established that England saw increased storminess and heavy rainfall in this period, but this article suggests that the impact of drought—which became a common feature of the English climate during the 1320s and early 1330s—has been overlooked. Based primarily on a detailed analysis of account rolls for over 60 of the best-documented manors in this period, the article establishes that drought brought devastating harvest failure and caused severe outbreaks of a number of diseases, plausibly including enteric infections, malaria, and winter and spring fevers. As a result, mortality surged and population levels fell in communities in affected regions, which were mainly confined to the southern and eastern counties of England. The article concludes that such regional variation significantly affects our understanding of demographic, agricultural, and even fiscal trends in this period. Although we should not disregard the human factors influencing the impact of environmental shocks, England was plainly struck with indubitable force by extreme weather in this pivotal phase of the medieval economy.