The Age of Adversity: The 14th Century is a book by Robert Lerner. It outlines the disasters of the 14th century, one particularly prone to disaster. A quick overview of the major events that helped to make this one of the most deadly eras in which to live:

1. Overexpansion and overpopulation: In 1000 CE, the population of Europe was around 40 million. By 1400, the population had increased to over 100 million. There was enormous town development during this period, partially because of the asartine movement. Surplusses of grain led to a depression of agricultural prices, and yields dropped on the marginal lands. People left the farms in droves to migrate to the towns, increasing the chances that a major disease would decimate Europe.

2. The Little Ice Age of 1315-1317: A major climate change began in 1315; Europe went from sunny and mild to wet and cold. Before the Little Ice Age, even England was warm enough to grow grapes for wine. Afterwards, there were crop failures all over Europe, and the food content of the grain that did live was quite poor. The result was widespread famine and malnutrition.

3. Appearance of the Ottoman Turks: The Ottoman Turks cut off trade routes with the East, which resulted in a rise in the price of imported goods. They took Adrianople in 1356, and annexed much of the Balkan Penninsula over the next 30 years. They also laid a major seige of Constantinople in 1400, to which the city almost fell.

4. Chronic Warfare: The 14th century saw innumerable military conflicts all over Europe, the most significant of which was the Hundred Years War.

5. The Black Plague: From 1348 to 1349, the plague ravished Europe, with a death rate from 20 to 50%. The crowded cities and malnourished population only increased the death toll, so that in the end, one third to one half of Europe was killed off.

The economic ramifications of these disasters were not all bad. Agriculture suffered the most because of an oversupply of food. Industry recovered more quickly because of the large urban population. There was an acute labor shortage, so that those who managed to live through the disasters were rewarded by a sharp wage increase. The landholders suffered most of all, becuase of the high wages they had to pay and the high industrial prices; squabbles over these issues led to the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 in England. However, the standard of living for most people rose. Banking and bookkeeping developed during this century. However, there was much social unrest. Wool workers in Florence revolted in 1378, and class disputes led the lower and middle classes to ally against the upper class.

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