Due to Covid-19 over the last 15 months almost all meetings have been online rather than in person. This blog explores the benefits of these new ways of working for academic researchers, and historians in particular. Rather than focusing on online conferences, which have already generated quite a bit of discussion (https://manyheadedmonster.com/tag/the-craft/), the blog looks at other ways of meeting to exchange research ideas. Despite frustrations, meeting online has many advantages: it’s low cost, time-efficient, and brings people in disparate locations together; its environmental impact is minimal. I’m writing from the perspective of academic running a research project, but I think that these observations have a wider relevance. The blog concentrates on two types of meeting: project meetings (regular meetings of a small group working on a project) and research seminars (a presentation to a group of interested people, followed by open discussion). Continue reading →
Jane Whittle was approached by History Extra to take part in a podcast after the publication of her article by The Many-headed Monster
You can listen to it on History Extra -The Black Death and social change and find further details with links to more information on the Black Death.
Unprecedented episodes of disease, such as the current outbreak of COVID-19, are moments of fluidity when parts of existing societies are laid bare as not fit for purpose. Wars create similar moments of flux. The Second World War created the consensus that allowed the founding of the NHS and the Welfare State. Could our current state of crisis lead to something positive and long lasting, amid all the disruption, trauma and loss?
My research focuses on another such moment, the consequences of Black Death of the 14th century. In the midst of the Black Death the English government made the significant decision not to strengthen the institution of serfdom but instead to increase the regulation of waged labour with the Ordinance of Labourers of 1349.
The Black Death was an outbreak of bubonic plague that raged across Europe between 1347 and 1349 and killed an estimated 50% of the English population. Fortunately the mortality rate of COVID-19 looks to be closer to 1% of those infected (and thus lower for the total population). Yet in our highly interconnected modern society its impact is already shaping up to be enormous. Historians have long puzzled over the fact that the immediate social and economic impact of the Black Death appears to have been remarkably slight. Social, economic, and political structures remained in place. However, this is to overlook the innovation of the labour laws. The Ordinance of Labourers of 1349 was a revolutionary piece of legislation. It marked the end of serfdom and beginning of an economy dependent on wage labour, but it signalled that the government’s attitude to wage workers would be far from lenient. Although initially announced as an emergency measure by the monarchy, when Parliament next met in 1351 it was enthusiastically endorsed. The measures remained in force until the early 19th century. Continue reading →