Propter Mortalitatem Maximam”, Some New Perspectives on the Black Death in Flanders (1349-1350)

v. Jan Vandeburie, PhD.Stud. University of Kent.

The Black Death or the plague-epidemic in the middle of the 14th century, ravaged Europe severely and caused the death of approximately one third of the population. The economic, social, cultural and mental consequences of the disease and the recurrent outbreaks until the 17th century, were vast and caused a general late-Medieval crisis in the Old World.

Since an article by the influential Belgian historian Van Werveke in 1950, it was generally assumed in the international and local historiography that the county of Flanders was mainly spared from the epidemic. Van Werveke made this assumption based among others upon the absence of sources that mention the devastation of the Black Death in the region.

However, since the 1950’s, new small scale research showed it was possible to find proof of an impact of the epidemic in Flanders by studying economic and demographic, therefore mostly statistical, sources that point indirectly to a greater mortality than earlier assumed.

In this paper a revision will be made of the use, and flaws, of certain types of sources in earlier studies and it will be shown how new sorts of source material can indirectly contribute evidence to this matter. By interpreting certain sources in a different way than has been done in the past, it might be possible to also come up with new insights for other countries where research concerning the Black Death has been problematic due to the lack of source material. Especially Denmark could prove to be a good case-study for a comparative investigation with Flanders.

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