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Famine of 1315


In the year of our Lord 1315, apart from the other hardships with which England was afflicted, hunger grew in the land.... Meat and eggs began to run out, capons and fowl could hardly be found, animals died of pest, swine could not be fed because of the excessive price of fodder. A quarter of wheat or beans or peas sold for twenty shillings [In 1313 a quarter of wheat sold for five shillings.], barley for a mark, oats for ten shillings. A quarter of salt was commonly sold for thirty-five shillings, which in former times was quite unheard of. The land was so oppressed with want that whe the king came to St. Albans on the feast of St. Laurence [August 10] it was hardly possible to find bread on sale to supply his immediate household....

The dearth began in the month of May and lasted until the feast of the nativity of the Virgin [September 8]. The summer rains were so heavy that grain could not ripen. It could hardly be gathered and used to bake bread down to the said feast day unless it was first put in vessels to dry. Around the end of autumn the dearth was mitigated in part, but toward Christmas it became as bad as before. Bread did not have its usual nourishing power and strength because the grain was not nourished by the warmth of summer sunshine. Hence those who ate it, even in large quantities, were hungry again after a little while. There can be no doubt that the poor wasted away when even the rich were constantly hungry....

Considering and understanding these past miseries and those that were still to come, we can see how the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled in the English people: "If I go forth into the fields, behold those slain with the sword, and if I enter into the city behold them that are consumed with famine" (Jeremiah 14.18). Going "forth into the fields" when we call to mind the ruin of our people in Scotland and Gascony, Wales and Ireland ... Entering the city we consider "them that are consumed with famine" when we see the poor and needy, crushed with hunger, lying stiff and dead in the wards and streets....

Four pennies worth of coarse bread was not enough to feed a common man for one day. The usual kinds of meat, suitable for eating, were too scarce; horse meat was precious; plump dogs were stolen. And, according to many reports, men and women in many places secretly ate their own children....

From Johannes de Trokelowe, Annates, H. T. Riley, ed., Rolls Series, No. 28, Vol. (London, 1866), pp. 92-95. Translated by Brian Tierney.

 


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

(c)Paul Halsall Jan 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu