The Great Bovine Pestilence and its economic and environmental consequences in England and Wales, 1318–50

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Abstract

The present article seeks to identify the nature, extent, and impact of the Great Bovine Pestilence in England and Wales, between 1318 and 1350. The murrain, which killed around 62 per cent of the bovine animals in England and Wales in 1319–20, had a tremendous impact within both the seigniorial and peasant sectors of late medieval agriculture. In particular, the pestilence, which decreased the overall population of dairy cattle, depressed the overall levels of milk supply available for human consumption. Is it possible that the bovine crisis of 1319–20, and the subsequent protein shortage, were instrumental in weakening the immune system of humans and making them prone to the pestilence some 30 years later?

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