Chapter 12: Famine, Plague, and Recovery, c. 1300-1500


Paston Family Letters and more here. For the first Valentine in English, go here.

Wall Paintings in English Parish Churches

Pied Piper of Hamelyn

Wharram Percy (excavations of a medieval village)

Margery Kempe (would-be mystic and author of the first autobiogaphy in English)


TEST YOURSELF: Have you read Chapter 12 adequately? Test yourself here.


MAPS: Want to download a map from chapter 12?  Click here.


TIMELINES: Want to download a timeline from chapter 12?  Click here.


CITATIONS: Want to find the source of a quote used in chapter 12? Click here.



David Abulafia, The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus (2008). A sweeping survey of early European encounters with other peoples.  See also J. R. S. Phillips, The Medieval Expansion of Europe (2nd edition, 1998); G. V. Scammell, The First Imperial Age: European Expansion, c. 1400–1715 (1989); and Peter Russell, Prince Henry “the Navigator”: A Life (2000).

Judith M. Bennett, A Medieval Life: Cecilia Penifader of Brigstock, c. 1295–1344 (1999). An introduction to rural society, written for students. See also Duccio Balestracci, The Renaissance in the Fields: Family Memoirs of a Fifteenth-Century Tuscan Peasant (1999); Barbara A. Hanawalt, The Ties That Bound: Peasant Families in Medieval England (1986); and R. H. Hilton, Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381 (1973).

Thomas A. Brady, Jr. et al., Handbook of European History 1400–1600, 2 vols. (1994). Exceedingly useful essays by leading scholars that address a variety of issues in the social, economic, religious, and political history of the period.  See also Robert Fossier, ed., The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages, vol. 3: 1250–1520, trans. Janet Sondheimer (1986); volumes 6 and 7 of David Abulafia et al., eds., The New Cambridge Medieval History (2000 and 1998); David Nicholas, The Transformation of Europe, 1300–1600 (1999); Denys Hay, Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (2nd edition, 1989).

Caroline Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (1987). A path-breaking study of female spirituality.

Carlo M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution: European Society and Economy, 1000–1700 (3rd edition, 1993). See also Christopher Dyer, Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England, c. 1200–1500 (rev. edition, 1998).

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe (2002). Makes a persuasive case that the mid-fourteenth-century plague was not bubonic plague.

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., Lust for Liberty: The Politics of Social Revolt in Medieval Europe, 1200-1425 (2006). A major reinterpretation of rebellion.

Evelyn Edson, The World Map, 1300-1493 (2007). An accessible guide to European map-making of all sorts.

Steven A. Epstein, An Economic and Social History of Later Medieval Europe, 1000-1500 (2009).

Paul Freedman, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination (2008). A delightful study of a subject that touches much of late medieval culture—cuisine, medicine, trade, and the voyages of discovery.

Chira Frugoni, Books, Banks, Buttons, and Other Inventions from the Middle Ages (2003). Translated from Italian, this is an amusing and informative book.

Michael Jones, ed., Gentry and Lesser Nobility in Late-Medieval Europe (1986). Innovative articles by experts.

Herbert L. Kessler and Johanna Zacharias, Rome, 1300: On the Path of the Pilgrim (2000).  An accessible study that lets the reader see Rome through the eyes of one pilgrim.

Richard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth Century (1998). An innovative study of a magician’s how-to manual, accompanied by the text (in Latin).

Pamela O. Long, Technology, Society and Culture in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe, 1300-1600 (2000).  A short, informative pamphlet, organized by innovation.

Mavis E. Mate, Women in Medieval English Society (1999). A short introduction to the subject, packed with references.

David Nicholas, The Later Medieval City, 1300–1500 (1997). A definitive new survey. See also Edwin S. Hunt and James M. Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe 1200–1500 (1999).

Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (1991). An important study of a central aspect of late medieval piety. See also her Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (1999). For a different interpretation, see David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (1996), and also John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, eds., Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration before the Enlightenment (1997).

R. N. Swanson, Religion and Devotion in Europe c. 1215–1515 (1995). An authoritative and wide-ranging study. See also his Church and Society in Late Medieval England (1989), and Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (1994).

John A. F. Thomson, Popes and Princes 1417–1517 (1980). A good, concise history of the late medieval papacy.

John Watts, The Making of Polities: Europe, 1300-1500 (2009). A comparative study.

Philip Ziegler, The Black Death (1969). The best general summary. For famine, see William C. Jordan, The Great Famine: Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century (1996).



Mark Bailey, The English Manor, c. 1200–c. 1500 (2002). See also Edwin Brezette DeWindt, ed., A Slice of Life: Selected Documents of Medieval English Peasant Experience (1996), and R. B. Dobson, The Peasant’s Revolt (2nd edition, 1983).

Edwin Brezette DeWindt, ed., A Slice of Life: Selected Documents of Medieval English Peasant Experience (1996).

Rosemary Horrox, The Black Death (1994). A European-wide collection, but focused on England. See also John Aberth, The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-50 (2005).

Shannon McSheffrey, ed., Love and Marriage in Late Medieval London (1995).

Carole Rawcliffe, ed., Sources for the History of Medicine in Late Medieval England (1995).

Kathryn L. Reyerson and Debra A. Salata, eds., Medieval Notaries and Their Acts: The 1327-1328 Register of Jean Holanie (2004).

John Shinners, ed., Medieval Popular Religion, 1000–1500 (1997). See also John van Engen, Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings (1988), and R. N. Swanson, Catholic England: Faith, Religion and Observance before the Reformation (1993).


These listings are works-in-progress.  They are highly selective and aimed at the practical needs of students and teachers.  If you have suggestions, please send them to Judith Bennett.