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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11082/the-great-depression-of-the-14th-century/

The Great Depression of the 14th Century

November 23, 2009 by

Focus on the devastation caused by outbreaks of the Black Death in the mid-14th century is partially correct, but superficial, for these outbreaks were themselves partly caused by an economic breakdown. FULL ARTICLE by Murray N. Rothbard

{ 8 comments }

Mike November 23, 2009 at 8:39 am

Very informative. I loves me some Rothbard.

Jonathan Finegold Catalán November 23, 2009 at 10:20 am

If anybody is interested, some members of the Mises Book Club will be reading the book this piece was extracted from over the course of December. We will have a discussion in January (and also start a new book). If anybody is interested, the community for the Mises Book Club is here:

http://mises.org/Community/groups/bookclub/default.aspx

The thread where the book was decided upon can be seen by clicking on “discussion”.

Ben Ranson November 23, 2009 at 10:45 am

This article is a little too broad in scope. I suppose that is inevitable in any five page article covering a hundred year period.

I think that Rothbard treats the Great Schism in an overly simplistic way. Also, he is mistaken when he claims that, “The wars of the 14th century did not cause a great deal of direct devastation: armies were small and hostilities were intermittent.”

In fact, the fighting in France in this period was brutal and constant, and occasioned much rape, plunder, etc… Also, many areas (especially in Italy) faced constant extortion and pillage by mercenary armies known as free companies, such as the White Company.

Bob Rooney November 23, 2009 at 11:09 am

Some argue that wars and plague during the mediaveal ages lead to the onset of escape from the “malthusian trap”:

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3823

I hope the global powerbrokers dont think about the same agenda…

coyote November 23, 2009 at 12:14 pm

One other relevant cause — the depression coincided with the end of the Medieval Warm Period. We are so programmed nowadays that warming is bad that we forget that in history, warming always coincided with prosperity. It was cooling in the 1300′s that led to rainy weather and a series of crop failures in the 1330′s. These famines are sometimes thought to have weakened the population and made the plague attacks much worse.

fundamentalist November 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Good points, coyote. The plague bacteria also thrived in cold weather. Warm weather killed it. You’ll find outbreaks of the plague coinciding with unusually cold weather.

Gil November 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

Or should it be said that the wars and plagues spurred innovation because need comes before invention? Had Europeans found a cosy peaceful Medieval experience then they would have no incentive to improve their lives and we’d still be Medieval farmers.

Ohhh Henry November 24, 2009 at 5:34 pm

I just read _The Name of the Rose_ by Umberto Eco. It’s a good book. Probably over half of it is a pedantic but fairly readable overview of the problems of the Middle Ages in the early 14th century. But it has a gap in its arguments because it is utterly missing the kind of Rothbardian analysis as above. The words war, taxes, and inflation are virtually if not completely absent. It contains a very intelligent analysis of HOW people from various places and of various classes end up joining or supporting dissenting religious movements, but almost no theories about WHY someone would do so.

Rothbard’s information is the missing link. If one’s farming or artisanal occupation has been ruined or is threatened by war, taxes and inflation then this would be a major reason why one would risk losing everything by joining an austere religious sect, going on a crusade or participating in a mob attack on clerics, landlords and moneylenders.

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