Prof. John H. Munro

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1. When did the general growth of European population, the demographic upswing that commenced in the 10th-11th centuries, cease? In the later 13th century? In the early 14th century? Not until the Black Death of 1348? Or later? WHY and HOW?

  1. Did climatic changes have any influence on demographic changes: in terms of agricultural output, nutrition (and thus resistance to both famine and disease) and the biological transmission of diseases?

3. What brought about the drastic demographic declines in 14th and 15th century Europe? Did a ‘Malthusian Crisis’ trigger that population decline? Or was the demographic decline chiefly the result of Plague? Were the causes of European population decline essentially endogenous or exogenous to the functioning of the European economy?

4. What relationships were there, in the 14th and 15th centuries, between/among: famine, warfare, and disease?
5. What was the Black Death? What forms did it take? How was it introduced into Europe? How did it spread? What determined or influenced the mortality rates from the Black Death and succeeding plagues?
For a vivid contemporary, first hand description of the plague in the reign of Byzantine or East Roman Emperor Justinian (r. 527-565), by his Prefect of Constantinople, the historian Procopius, see H.B. Dewing, ed., Procopius History of the Wars, Books I and II, in Greek and English translation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 450-73. Note the actual use of the word ‘bubonic’ in this description: βονβωνων (pp. 460-61).
6. The current debate about the biological nature of the Black Death: was it bubonic plague, and was it transmitted (as the bacillus Yersinia pestis) by rat borne fleas? Or was it some other disease?
7. What other factors determined high death rates in late-medieval Europe, in rural and urban areas?
8. What factors influenced changes in birth rates? What was the more powerful factor in determining demographic changes and population levels: the birth rate or the death rate? How were the two related?
9. What is the ‘European marriage pattern’? What influence did it come to have on European birth and death rates? When did it commence -- in the Middle Ages, or later, in the early-modern era? Is there any evidence for a European marriage pattern anywhere in medieval Europe?
10. Why did the population decline continue for so long, into the 15th century? When, where, how, and why did that population decline come to a halt? What brought about the beginnings of population recovery?
11. What were the general economic and social consequences of population decline in late medieval Europe?
12. Discuss the relationships between living standards and population levels, demographic change.
13. Did population decline – from plagues, famines, wars, etc – lead to a rise in producitvity and thus real-wages in later-medieval western Europe. What factors determined the levels of and changes in real wages and other real incomes?
14. Did demographic decline produce economic decline, or stagnation; or did it foster change and new economic growth?

  1. What were the regional variations in demographic change in medieval Europe: what regions experienced long term demographic and economic decline, and which ones experienced population and economic growth?

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