THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

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Stanley
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THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

Post by Stanley » 28 Jul 2013, 04:04

THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

The historians are still debating the effects that the Black Death of the 14th century had on the subsequent economic and social development of England. Opinions vary from bald assertions that it caused the fall of the Feudal System and a transition to Capitalism to less aggressive interpretations which suggest that whilst it was an important milestone, the subsequent changes were ongoing and would have happened anyway, all the Black Death did was to nudge these changes along a little faster.

The problem with all these theories is that they are general interpretations for the whole of the country, often based on evidence from specific areas where evidence exists. Recent work, still ongoing, suggests that the local effect could vary widely from county to county and often even between villages. Some villages were affected so badly that the population fled and abandoned their holdings. In others, there seems to have been very little change.

My interest is what happened to Barlick and whilst the evidence is very thin on the ground, I believe we can make some intelligent guesses as to what happened here. The first and most obvious one is that the village, and indeed the local area, carried on much the same as before, doubtless with small adjustments in the pattern of land-holdings and what the inhabitants did to make enough money to survive. I believe that the growing wool trade was a key factor. It gave the villagers an alternative source of income.

As early as the 13th century, exports of raw wool to the Continent was England’s biggest earner. It was soon realised that these earnings could be even higher if we wove the cloth here and profited from the added value. In 1331 king Edward III decreed that Flemish weavers should be encouraged to settle in England and bring with them the latest weaving technology. They came and lived largely in the South but the tricks of the trade they brought soon spread with the migration of labour. We know from the presence of Fulling Mills that there was already a thriving trade in our area which traded extensively with the South East counties and there can be little doubt that the latest skills soon became known in places as small as Barlick because it was in the interests of the clothiers (the cloth merchants who controlled the trade) to ensure that their outworkers produced the best cloth possible.

By an accident of fate, the Black Death actually stimulated the wool trade. A contemporary poet wrote ‘Sheep have eaten up our meadows and our downs, Our corn, our wood, whole villages and towns.’ The reason for this was that with a reduction in the agricultural labour force of at least a third, there wasn’t enough labour to cultivate arable crops on the scale before the plague and so landowners turned to less labour intensive sheep as an alternative. Production of wool rose and with it the demand for weavers to convert the staple into cloth. So, there is good reason to suppose that the weavers in our district would have benefited from the demand and their income would have increased. It is quite possible that the survivors of the plague who were active in the domestic textile trade suddenly found that they had never had it so good! The cloud of ‘miasma’ may have had a silver lining. We can’t be certain of this of course but evidence from contemporary inventories on the death of a property holder suggest that many of them were engaged in weaving. What is certain is that weaving of wool continued to be an important factor in the economy of the area. This would explain why inside a hundred years, population had grown so strongly that there was pressure on the land which eventually led to enclosures of the common lands early in the 16th century and the need for pirate mills for corn-grinding. We have good local evidence for all of these things.

Let’s do what we have to do every now and again and fly a kite. Allow me to make up a story that fits with what we know….. Assuming that as a minimum the Black Death killed a quarter of the population of the area, this is a safe assumption based on ecclesiastical records. This doesn’t mean that a quarter of the families died out. It is far safer to assume that in most cases, an average of at least a quarter of a family died. This is important as it means that the survivors had the resources previously shared out between all the family, in other words, seeing as there were less people to support, they were actually better off. Production of food fell because of a shortage of labour but this would not kick in until the following harvest and we know from evidence in the Bolton Priory Compotus that Barnoldswick was a net exporter of grain as early as the 13th century. It is therefore safe to assume that famine wasn’t a consequence of the plague. Add to this the evidence we have from the same source that Barlick had a thriving industry based on timber and there is even more reason to suppose that there was plenty of work.

There could have been another important factor. Hard though it may be to accept, one of the consequences of epidemic disease is that it culls the weakest first. The remaining population of the village had been tried in the fire and it would be no surprise if the survivors were on the whole, fitter and stronger than the average of the population before the Black Death. It is quite possible that they were stronger psychologically as well. They had faced the worst catastrophe imaginable and had come through unscathed. This fact would not have escaped discussion around the fire and could well have provided the germ for new confidence and different ways of thinking. We tend to forget factors like this but they are vitally important. The picture I want you to go away with this week is a village that has suffered a terrible blow but has survived as a family and social unit and suddenly finds itself in a climate of relative plenty. The question that arises in my mind is what did they do with this new set of circumstances. How did it affect the development of society and Barlick?

SCG/04 February 2007
1007 words.
One pic attached. Caption reads: The Woolsack in the House of Lords is a symbol of how important the wool trade was for England.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

Post by Nolic » 28 Jul 2013, 08:21

Thanks for bringing these back Comrade. Good reads.Nolic
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Stanley
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Re: THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

Post by Stanley » 29 Jul 2013, 06:08

I had a search on the site and couldn't find the Black Death articles. It may be that I have duplicated them but no matter. I shall consult with Ian and Pluggy when we get the new platform up. There may be merit in re-loading all the Articles and research if duplication doesn't cause any problems. I have the lot on HD from before the site started.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Stanley
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Re: THE BLACK DEATH AND BARLICK’S DEVELOPMENT

Post by Stanley » 02 Mar 2019, 02:42

Bumped
Stanley Challenger Graham
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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