The country was also visited by a succession of famines and floods, and in 1348 the Black Death swept over Europe like a terrible scourge.
One of the worst forms taken by this ill-will was the oft-revived myth of ritual murder, and later on when the Black Death devastated Europe (1348-1349) the Jews were the victims of an odious charge of well-poisoning.
Dr Creighton points out that the number given by certain chroniclers of the deaths from the early pestilences in London are incredible; such for instance as the statement that forty or fifty thousand bodies were buried in Charterhouse churchyard at the time of the Black Death in 1348-1349.
In 1377 the levying of a polltax provides partial figures from which a total of two to twoand-a-half millions has been deduced, but again divergent views have been expressed as to how far the number was still affected by the Black Death of 1348-1349.
The 14th century was marked by violent fluctuations in the demand and supply of labour, and particularly the tremendous loss in population occasioned in the middle of this century by the Black Death called forth a most serious crisis.
In the early years of the reign the people, especially in the south and west, attacked and plundered the Jews; and the consequent disorder was greatly increased by the ravages of the Black Death and by the practices and preaching of the Flagellants, both events serving to spur the maddened populace to renewed outrages on the Jews.
The discontent of the rural labourers and of the poorer class of craftsmen in the towns, caused by the economic distress that followed the Black Death and the enactment of the Statute of Labourers in 1351, was brought to a head by the imposition of a poll tax in 1379 and again in 1381, and at the end of May in the latter year riots broke out at Brentwood in Essex; on the 4th of June similar violence occurred at Dartford; and on the 6th a mob several thousands strong seized the castle of Rochester and marched up the Medway to Maidstone.
The mortality of the black death was, as is well known, enormous.
Diverging to Hamath and Aleppo, on his return to Damascus, he found the Black Death raging, so that two thousand four hundred died in one day.
Following on this came the Black Death with its terrible consequences in Germany; even in Poland, where the Jews had previously enjoyed considerable rights, extensive massacres took place.