Connections have often been drawn between epidemics and increased criminal activity. Despite this pattern, historians of late medieval crime have long neglected the dynamics of crime and its prosecution during the Black Death, one of the most severe demographic disasters of the last millennium. This study aims to explore the effects of the plague pandemic on criminality and test the hypotheses that pandemics ‘amplify tensions and augment the opportunities for crime’. My central research questions will address whether there was an increase in crime during the Black Death 1348-1350 and if the administration of justice was effected.
The major Flemish Cities provide a unique context to investigate the origins, the impact and the consequences of the Great Shocks of the 14th century. Based on new and exciting price series for the major cities of Bruges, Lille, Douai and Cambrai, I will not only be able to reconstruct divergences in the impact of the food shocks of the 14th century, but also to question the role of large urban landowners in the management and ‘production’ of these food crises. In order to do so, I aim to compare the grain economy of urban hospitals, abbeys and ecclesiastical landlords during these food shocks. Such enquiry will allow a better understanding of both the causal mechanisms behind these food crises and the way major urban landlords handled and sometimes co-produced these crises.