The Black Death

DEV BLOG #38: The economic impact on the Black Death

Welcome one and all to our weekly Dev Blog!

This week we’re taking a look at the economic impact of the plague.

The update forecast: Big things take time, we’re looking towards a new BETA build on September 8th. 

Precursor, the high middle ages

During the years precluding the Black Death, commonly known as the High Middle Ages, Europe underwent a rapid increase in population, which lead to a huge boost to the European economy. It would reach levels that would not be seen again until the late 19th century.

This time period also witnessed agricultural production techniques maturing, meaning less peasantry was required in the rural areas to manage the land, business and manufacturing innovations and long distance commerce booming.

Combined with social and political upheaval this lead to large scale rural exodus and urbanization, cities became important hubs for the populous more than ever before.

In its final days, Europe in the high middle ages became a hot bed of precarious situations.

The medieval warming period ended in the 1200’s and was followed by a cooler, wetter period named the Little Ice Age. A direct result of this was the Great Famine of 1315 – 1322, starting with three years of torrential rains. The growing season shortened each year or didn’t come at all.

The rapid increase in population during the high middle ages meant that businesses and institutions had a wealth of low-cost labor available to them. Wages plummeted and workers exploited. The elite grew rich and the working society was deprived.

Cities would have been overcrowded with people seeking work, the streets would have been cold and wet and long distance trade would mean frequent coming and going of people and goods to each city across Europe.

Then The Black Death began.

Highly paid peasants and lowly pad lords.

As the plague ravaged the nation the population began to decline.

The peasantry who had remained working the land and avoided infection found themselves part of a much smaller labor pool. Prior to the plague rising population had kept wages low and living costs high. The Black Death swung the balance in the peasant’s favor, enabling them to demand higher wages from Lords.

The Lords however suffered. The death of large numbers of the workforce cost them dearly. Combined with homes being abandoned, previously fertile land being rendered unusable by the weather and the afore mentioned higher demands of the peasantry meant their revenues shrank.


Despite the increased wages for the peasantry rebellions cropped up across the land.

This was not a single unified rebellion, but a series of individual uprisings, each with complex reasons and situations behind them. One common thread was the notion the nobility had failed the peasantry on various fronts.

The Black Death played some role in this, but it is difficult to gauge its importance relative to other causes, especially with so much unrest on various fronts at the time. Perhaps the Plagues greatest contribution lay in its fostering of a shrinking economy that for a time was less able to absorb the tensions than a prospering medieval economy.

Unstable times

Social, economic and political factors all tied in with the plague itself to cause huge economic unrest that would have been felt in every walk of life during The Black Death.

Does this show through within the game? Let us know what you think!

We promise next week we’ll be taking a closer look at current developments, what we’re working on needs a bit more time in the over!

See you all in Mercia!

/The SIG team.

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