Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association

THE BLACK DEATH AND CLERICAL RECRUITMENT: THE EVIDENCE OF ORDINATION LISTS

Archives: The Journal of the British Records Association (2019), 54, (2), 1–36.

Abstract

Following the death of approximately half of the priests in England in the Black Death, there was a need to recruit considerable numbers of men to fill their places. During 1349 and to some extent into 1350 the number of ordinands far exceeded the annual average. As a result, the ratio of clergy to the reduced population increased but, despite the influx, the number of clergy per parish was reduced. During the remainder of the 1350s, numbers of priests ordained annually in most dioceses fell to less than half of the pre-plague number. Some of the men who came forward in 1349 had already been ordained acolyte in the preceding few years and had probably always intended to proceed to the priesthood, but there were two other groups: men who had been ordained acolyte a decade or more previously and may have decided that they would not progress further but who changed their minds when new opportunities appeared, and men who hurried to become acolytes in 1349 and proceeded swiftly to the priesthood. The social and economic background of the plague-period priests was similar to that of priests ordained earlier in the fourteenth century, and many ordinands came from families which had previously provided priests. The contrast between those parts of the country which supplied relatively high numbers of priests and those, notably the south-east, which provided relatively few, continued. Ordination lists are shown to be an important source for study of the effect of the Black Death on religious provision.

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Author details

Robinson, David