Date of Award

Winter 3-22-2019

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Michael Kucher


This paper investigates the role of the Black Death in developing England’s eating habits and culinary traditions. The mid-fourteenth century saw a marked change in English cuisine, change that traversed the classes. This change correlates with the timing of the Black Death, an episode of extreme mortality cause by bubonic plague. Notorious as the greatest single source of death across medieval Europe, the Black Death looms in modern minds as an unparalleled tragedy. Between 1348 to 1350, the Black Death swept across Europe and killed between one third and one half of the population. England endured an average of forty percent population loss, seemingly turning society upside down as manors and fields were neglected. However, two interesting phenomena occurred following the Black Death that had repercussions for centuries: the proportion of livestock to farmed land increased dramatically, and the peasant classes gained better wages and unprecedented mobility leading to a demand for more and higher quality foods. Existing scholarship tends to focus on economic, sociological, and agricultural trends during the Black Death, or on cooking, kitchens, and food customs. This paper connects Black Death history to food history. Primary sources utilized include manorial records and data compiled from these records, fourteenth century recipes, contemporary literature including the thirteenth century Treatise of Walter Bibbesworth and fourteenth century Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman. The sources confirm that the Black Death contributed greatly to the change in the way nearly all lower-class English subjects ate, as well as the attitudes surrounding food.