Food Crisis in Fourteenth-Century Hungary: Indicators, Causes and Case Studies

Kiss, Andrea GND; Piti, Ferenc; Sebők, Ferenc GND; Teiszler, Eva

This paper provides an initial overview of the failed harvests, food shortages, and famines reported in fourteenth-century sources from the Kingdom of Hungary and also with some reference to the countries of the Hungarian crown. It examines what might have caused these crises and looks for signs of socioeconomic consequences. Following a discussion of the primary sources – including an overview of the terms which contem-porary authors used and of the methodology of interpreting direct and indirect indica-tors – the paper proceeds with a survey of the potential causes of food shortages. These include both those fourteenth-century meteorological and climate-related events (e.g., weather extremes, floods, fires) and biological hazards (e.g., locusts invasions, plague/pestilence) which have been established for this period, as well as some significant social factors (e.g., feudal anarchy and wars). Finally, it discusses those years for which there are indications of bad harvests, food shortages, dearth, and famine as separate cases studies on the 1310s to the early 1320s, the late 1340s to the early 1350s, early to mid-1360s, (1373–)1374, 1381, and the early to mid-1390s. Those periods which experienced food shortages (e.g. the 1310s and 1374) show thought-provoking parallels with some of the food crises that occurred in central and western Europe during this same time.