Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Thr St Mary Magdalene Flood of 1342

Until I saw this medieval catastrophe referred to today on an online daily list of anniversaries I must admit I was unaware of the St Mary Magdalene Flood. Given that it devastated much of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire it is surprising it is not better known. The account on Wikipedia can be seen at St. Mary Magdalene's flood

The story is one that brings to mind the fact that natural disasters, and more especially freak weather conditions, are nothing new. That is not to deny in any way that we today face climate change that we have no doubt helped bring about. In the fourteenth century human agency was doubtless not a major factor but the weather was, as it still is, very much a law unto itself without additional human interference.

What is also interesting is the idea that a series of poor summers following on top of sudden and very significant soil erosion in 1342 made the Black Death of 1348-50 all the more serious for a weakened population - and that one that was reaching Malthusian limits.

There is an interesting development in historiography which seeks to investigate the linkages between such environmental events and political and social changes.

So climate change, shifting population patterns and a pandemic as well - makes the mid-fourteenth century seem very similar to our own times.

1 comment:

Matthew F Kluk said...

Very timely and appropos!