The aftermath of the Black Death, the fallout of one of the most massive tragedies in the history of mankind, was the genesis of a new era in human history. Education was stimulated by a spurt of university founding. Charles IV explained that he felt he needed to further the cause of "precious knowledge which the mad rage of pestilential death has stifled throughout the wide realms of the world" (n. pg.). Not all were founded for this love of learning however; Corpus Christi College was founded at Cambridge for solely monetary purposes. Fees for celebrating masses for the dead were so high that the college was established to educate clerics who would be required to pray for the dead.
The economy was jumpstarted by the loss of so many lives. Suddenly workers could break free of the feudal system and demand any wages they wanted. A middle class began to emerge; the rigors of the two class system that had dominated the Middle Ages were slowly broken down as former peasants moved into deserted manors. The fact that the plague had not discriminated in the slightest when choosing who to kill, leaving as many rich as poor dead, changed the way that the common man viewed his economic superiors.
Perhaps the greatest change brought on by the plague was the loss of religion. Once the dust had settled, and the people saw that there was seemingly no Divine purpose in their pain, they began to question God. If their God could be so cruel so wantonly, they wanted no part of him. According to Tuchman, "Once people envisioned the possibility of change in a fixed order, the end of an age of submission came in sight; the turn to individual conscience lay ahead. To that extent the Black Death may have been the unrecognized beginning of modern man" (Tuchman, pg. 123). That sole ruling institution of the Middle Ages, the Church, was called into question. This could have been the spark for the Protestant Reformation.
The Black Death Part 12: The Conclusion