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The Black Death and English Higher Education

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The Effect of the Black Death on English Higher Education by: William J. Courtenay is a piece that was easily broken down and ciphered into a well written piece that discredits previous historians’ thoughts. Courtenay is a well known scholar on medieval history, and is C.S. Haskins Professor of Medieval history. His article is a predeceasing article to the book he wrote Schools and Scholars in Fourteenth-Century England. Courtenay’s thesis in the article is that he is trying to prove that the Black Death did not have an effect on higher education, the Black Death actually opened the door to newer students, that would have never had chance to go to a university the opportunity to do so. The author takes his article and breaks it down into three written verses on the topic; The Oxford University Population before and after 1348: The Quantative effect, the issue of Qualitive decline, and The University and society; the response to the Black Death.

First Courtenay states that there is no stable population, and that because of this anyone could get in to a university.

One of the main reasons for this was that people were scared of the plague, and students since they had no permanent residence at their school could quickly leave, and since most of them were from rural towns, they had no major affliction by the epidemic. The plague had a positive effect on the universities, people that could regularly not attend college could now do so, since students were leaving, now spaces were open for students form various back grounds to actually get a degree, and many new minds, and brilliant minds were now actually attending the universities. Courtenay uses the Theological Faculty and staff of Oxford to help prove his thesis; he does so since they are the most noted to actually document on the epidemic, which he uses as a primary source. “There is no evidence that the Black Death took more than an additional five to ten percent” (Courtenay, page 56). This is speaking of the actual mortality rate being affected. On the issue of Qualitative effects of the Black Death Courtenay says that since may master would leave due to the epidemic, a quality of the education received was a possible outcome. The effect of this however would not be seen for decades after, around 1360-1375 as the author states. In his

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