The Black Death and the origins of the ‘Great Divergence’ across Europe, 1300–1600
By Sevket Pamuk
European Review of Economic History, Vol.11 (2007)
Abstract: One important recent theme emerging from the literature on early modern Europe is that some of the key structural and institutional changes that are responsible for the increases in incomes may have taken place rather early, in the late medieval period or in the era of the Black Death. This study makes use of the recently compiled real wage evidence for different parts of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean to gain further insights into this period. The era of the Black Death witnessed a series of important long-term changes in demographic behaviour, in agriculture, in manufacturing, trade and technology. Real wage series reﬂect the productivity increases from these changes. They also suggest the Low Countries and England were able to resist to a greater extent the general tendency for wages to decline during the second leg of the demographic cycle that began with the Black Death. A wage gap thus began to emerge between the northwest and the rest of the continent after 1450. The last section of the article explores the reasons for this divergence.