Morbid, but interesting! From 10 Good Things We Owe to The Black Death by Larry Jimenez:
“4. The End of Feaudalism
Feudalism describes the system by which a vassal owed a lord homage, fealty, and loyalty in exchange for the use of his land. Medieval society was thus stratified into three distinct classes: those who prayed (clergy), those who fought (nobles and knights), and those who labored (serfs). This lowest class was always prey for exploitation by powerful landowners.
The feudal system that burdened peasants with obligations to their lords was turned upside down by the Black Death. So many peasants died during the plague that fields lay abandoned and the crops went unharvested. Lords became desperate for workers. Taking advantage of the scarcity of labor, surviving peasants demanded higher wages—in cash rather than in kind—and fairer treatment for their services. For the first time, they dictated the conditions for their labor. Serfdom had found the source of its power against the nobility.
The great lords did not take the serfs’ newfound bargaining power lying down. Over the next several years after the Black Death, the king and the nobility passed laws that tried to bring back the pre-plague status quo. In 1350, the Statute of Laborers was enforced in England, seeking to “prevent laborers from obtaining higher wages.” The unfortunate law, together with the Poll Tax of 1381, provoked the Peasants’ Revolt.
But not even the king had the power to undo the dramatic changes to the structure of medieval society. Gone forever was the tripartite division of humanity. The new freedom of the laboring class created more job opportunities and more social mobility. The former serfs were now working for themselves, not for their lord. Here was the faint glimmering of the individualism so treasured in our modern Western society.”
Read the rest here: