By Brad Wuetherick
Past Imperfect, Vol.8 (1999)
Abstract: Most scholars have argued that the Hundred Years War negatively impacted the economy and society of England. They have focused primarily on four aspects of the war: the burden of taxation on the English populace, the effects of purveyance on rural society, the effect of recruitment on the labour force of England and the costs of supporting military expeditions. However, in each case the actual degree of impact can be called into question or offset by appealing to other scholarship, or by drawing attention to related positive benefits that are too often overlooked. Beyond this, one must also consider the benefits of war in the form of new industry and the influx of money from high wages, rewards, ransoms, and the spoils of war. This paper seeks to examine both the positive and negative impacts of the Hundred Years War on the rural society and economy of England and to demonstrate that the overall impact of the war was not as negative as the majority of historians have previously maintained.
Introduction: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in English history were shaped by the recurrence of war. However, the precise impact of these events on the rural society and economy of England has been the subject of much discussion. Of particular interest is the exchange between British historians M. Postan and K. McFarlane. While Postan has argued that this lengthy conflict had only negative impact on the society and economy of Late Medieval England, McFarlane has asserted that the war was very successful venture for the crown, with positive impacts for the economy.