The Great Famine 1315-1317

from wikipedia:

“The Great Famine of 1315–1317 (occasionally dated 1315–1322) was the first of a series of large scale crises that struck North Europe early in the fourteenth century. From the Pyrenees to Russia and from Scotland to Italy[1] it caused millions of deaths over an extended number of years and marking a clear end to an earlier period of growth and prosperity during the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Starting with bad weather in spring 1315, universal crop failures lasted through 1316 until summer harvest in 1317; Europe did not fully recover until 1322. It was a period marked by extreme levels of crime, disease, mass death and even cannibalism and infanticide. It had consequences for Church, State, European society and future calamities to follow in the fourteenth century.

In the spring of 1315, unusually heavy rain began in much of Europe. Throughout the spring and summer, it continued to rain and the temperature remained cool. These conditions caused widespread crop failures. The straw and hay for the animals could not be cured and there was no fodder for the livestock. The price of food began to rise. Food prices in England doubled between spring and midsummer. Salt, the only way to cure and preserve meat, was difficult to obtain because it could not be evaporated in the wet weather; it went from 30 shillings to 40 shillings. In Lorraine, wheat prices increased by 320 percent and peasants could no longer afford bread. Stores of grain for long-term emergencies were limited to the lords and nobles. Because of the general increased population pressures, even lower-than-average harvests meant some people would go hungry; there was little margin for failure. People began to harvest wild edible roots, plants, grasses, nuts, and bark in the forests.[3] There are a number of documented incidents that show the extent of the famine. Edward II, King of England, stopped at St Albans on 10 August 1315 and no bread could be found for him or his entourage; it was a rare occasion in which the King of England was unable to eat.[4]

In the spring of 1316, it continued to rain on a European population deprived of energy and reserves to sustain itself. All segments of society from nobles to peasants were affected, but especially the peasants who represented 95% of the population and who had no reserve food supplies.[6] To provide some measure of relief, draft animals were butchered, seed grain was consumed, children were abandoned to fend for themselves (see “Hansel and Gretel”), and some elderly people voluntarily refused food in order to provide nourishment needed for the younger generation to survive. The chroniclers of the time wrote of many incidents of cannibalism.[citation needed]

The height of the famine was reached in 1317 as the wet weather continued. Finally, in the summer the weather returned to its normal patterns. By now, however, people were so weakened by diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis, and so much of the seed stock had been eaten, that it was not until 1325 that the food supply returned to relatively normal conditions and the population began to increase again. Historians debate the toll but it is estimated that 10–25% of the population of many cities and towns died.”


4 Responses to “The Great Famine 1315-1317”

  1. This was an interesting and relevant piece of history, Bill. Poor weather coupled with low yields of agriculture, rising food prices and diminshing supplies of grain only lords and nobles afforded, and consequent diseases weakening the population led up to this disaster in Europe.

    In some ways, these food issues have been alleviated in current times by better business and agricultural improvements; yet, some of the other issues leading of this great famine are still here– rising food commodity prices, changing weather patterns, crop failures, and those who can afford to buy at the highest price given.

    Now we have a variety of cheap sugars, fats, and fast foods on the ‘dollar menu’ to choose from with rising obesity levels to match; contrastly, the price of wheat, corn, grains, fruits and vegetables (and fuel and oil-based fertilizers) are rising. Changing weather patterns are curbing food productivity in some parts of the world. Rising fuel prices affect food costs of being transported 5,000 miles away. In other countries there have been food riots over pricing and scarcity of supply.

    This was a good read, Bill. Thank you for the reminder.

    peace… skippy

  2. Thanks Skippy I do think there are parallels from then to now, globally we are on a thin line as far as food. If a couple things go wrong lots of people could starve soon.

    I have not quoted the wikipedia article in full it is a really good read, worth reading in full along with some of the hyperlinks.

    have a peaceful day,

  3. Anonymous Says:

    this website was awesome bro

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Remembering how thin is our bit of black dirt on the surface of our planet needed for plant growth.

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