No one was exempt as it swept in off the shores and into the countryside laying its burden of death and pestilence. Europe had prospered readily for about 300 years prior to the beginning of the 1300s, but a series of natural disasters occurred. Poor harvests and famine were common and as the prosperous years came to a close, economies were in recession at the onset of the Black Death. Europe, on a whole, would take a step backward. There have been plagues throughout recorded history, but none were of the magnitude nor had the far-reaching effects that the Black Plague had. Its namesake came from symptomatic hemorrhages that turned black. Though most people associate the Black Death with the middle ages, forms of the Bubonic Plague have been known in China as early as 224 BC. The Black Death embarked on a journey as an epidemic in the Gobi Desert in the 1320s. By 1400, China's population of 125 million had been reduced to 90 million. Southwest Asia and Europe followed suite with strikingly similar losses in their population base. In 1347, the Kipchaks who were nomads from the Euro-Asian Steppe were thought to deliberately infect a European city with the disease. The Kipchaks had .
laid siege to a Genoese trading post in Crimea. Hoping to weaken the defenders, they used a catapult to lob infected corpses into the compound. Trading vessels from Crimea subsequently brought cargo infested with the disease burdened rodents and crew west. Starting in Sicily in 1347, it began a four year reign of terror traveling as far as Greenland. During this four year period it is believed Europe lost one full third of its population. .
The effects the Plague had on the economy and the laws governing the state were severe. England is a perfect example. By 1349, the population had been so severely decreased that the commoner had the upper hand on the landlords. This was significant in that they were able to demand a higher wage and the markedly increase in their mobility if one lord did not suit their needs.