The Effect of the Black Death on English Higher Education

The Effect of the Black Death on English Higher Education, an article written by William J. Courtenay, takes a look into the quantitative and qualitative effects the plague had on English higher education.Courtenay, a history professor at Wisconsin University, has written several books on education in the 14th century, and is also Associate Chairman of the Classics Department, giving him credibility on the subject.By using several primary sources, such as registers from several schools, including that of Oxford, and other newly available sources, he is able to delve into a subject that even two decades ago was still very gray.With these new sources, Courtenay attempts to change the previous assumption that the plague greatly affected English higher education, and that the mortality rate within the educational establishments equaled that of the general population.
The two questions Courtenay attempts to answer, whether there was a qualitative and/or quantitative decline in English education as a result of the Black Plague, are both, even to this day, up to speculation.Courtenay begins by stating that up until a few decades ago, there had not been enough information to make an argument based on much fact.Work done, such as that of Anna Campbell, was mainly based on the statements of contemporary scholars, that the Black Plague had a major effect not only on the population, but every other facet of life, including education.Courtenay argues that though the Black Death most certainly affected educational establishments, the death rate of scholars was most likely not that high.He defends his argument by making a case study of a particular focus group, the theology department at Oxford.Using the newly computerized The Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, as well as other sources, Courtenay finds that the number of professors and students did not necessarily decline after the plague.He gives many reasons for…


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