chapter  3
In Sickness and in Health: Disease and Famine
Pages 31

When a large proportion of the population lived at or near the level of bare subsistence hunger was never long out of the common experience. Townspeople as well as country-dwellers were heavily dependent on the size of the harvest and the well-being of the flocks and herds - a murrain among the livestock was as big a disaster as the much-feared combination of a cold backward spring and a wet August and September. Less direct, but still powerful, was the influence of fluctu­ ations in trade: a decline in the staple export of wool, or later cloth, meant a fall in the employment of many people, in their incomes, and in their ability to feed themselves.