Medieval Famines

Life in medieval times could be very hard and there was no consistent supply of food for people. Very often we forget that It wasn't until the 18th century that Charles (Turnip) Townsend introduced crop rotation to England using turnips and clover to revitalise land left fallow. This would then provide winter feed for animals which would otherwise have been killed. After him came Thomas Coke who highlighted the cycle of fodder ~ animals ~ manure ~ crops.

Around the same time there were new mechanical innovations taking place - eg. for threshing machines (Andrew Meilde), an iron plough (James Small) and Jethro Tulls's famous seed planting drill.

Back in medieval times all these machines and technique were still unknown so times of plenty and times of famine were much more common.

As the population grew, it became harder to feed all the people and it wasn't until the Black Death and the dramatic reduction in the population that food became easier to source.

Just looking through a list of the most well known famines from medieval times we get the following:

11th century - 1005 AD, 1016 AD and 1066 AD were bad years

13th century - a particularly bad year in 1235 AD when over 20,000 died in London alone. Then there was 1294 AD as well.

14th century - there was the great famine in the whole of Europe between 1315 AD and 1317 AD.