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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).>br>Volume I. From the Beginnings to the Cycles of Romance.

XVII. Later Transition English

§ 13. The Black Death

Before the fourteenth century had come to a close, the ravages of the Black Death had brought about radical changes in the relations of labourers to the soil and had left indelible impressions on life and letters. The presence of a disease that, at its height, meant the death of one out of every two people in London and, in the eastern counties, of two out of every three, led to a relaxation of the current laws of life and to the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. The outbreak of lawlessness consequent upon the dislocation of life in town and country, and the labour troubles that followed, sent outlaws to the greenwood and helped to build up the legends of Robin Hood. Murmurs of discontent grew in volume, and protests against papal authority acquired fresh strength by the existence of the Great Schism. The Lollards began their attacks on social abuses and sought to reform the church at the same time. The people “spoke,” and, though the “cause” was not “finished” for many centuries to come, yet the end of many of the political and religious ideals of the Middle Ages was in sight. Wyclif, and those associated with him, had begun their work, the poems that go by the name of Piers Plowman had been written and the “commons,” in the fullest sense of the word, were beginning their long struggle for political freedom.