Dafydd ap Gwilym's [possible] grave at Strata Florida
Dafydd ap Gwilym's [possible]
grave at Strata Florida

In the mid 14th century Welsh culture underwent something of a Renaissance. In the centuries following the Norman Conquest, the Welsh bardic tradition had fallen into a period of decay. Though not actively suppressed by the English, Welsh cultural traditions, in general, were overwhelmed by the Norman influx.

>In 1325 the Welsh cleric Einion Offeiriad wrote his "Grammar" as a guide to poets. Those same poets were becoming more widely patronised by Welsh lords.

The foremost practitioner of the Bardic arts was Dafydd ap Gwilym. Gwilym was born into the Welsh upper class, though not noble himself. In the fine tradition of poets, Gwilym spent his life wandering through the countryside, composing verse extolling the pleasures of life. Despite the fact that he lived through the horrors of the Black Death, Gwilym makes no mention of that event.

The Black Death arrived in Wales by early 1349, probably carried from southern England. Over the next year, it accounted for the deaths of perhaps one-quarter of all Welsh. Further outbreaks of the plague occurred in 1360 and 1369, though these were thankfully not so virulent.

The social changes wrought by the Black Death were profound in Wales, as elsewhere in Britain. Fewer people were available to work the land, and many of those that remained fled to England to be free of excessive taxation in Wales.

This decline in population also affected the monasteries. The sheer number of monks declined, and so, naturally, did their influence on Welsh culture. Fewer monks meant fewer chroniclers of the times, and the latter half of the 14th century is notable for the paucity of written records from the previously prolific monastic chroniclers.

The influence of the Church amongst the Welsh was also waning. More and more, high church offices were held by Englishmen and other non-Welshmen.

In general, although there were brief periods when trade flourished, the economic life of Wales suffered in the 14th century, particularly in the 50 years following the outbreak of the Black Death.

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