Inflation in England, 1264-1954

posted Mar 13, 2010, 8:27 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated Mar 6, 2011, 4:30 AM ]
I pointed out that inflation was an important change in European life at the end of the Middle Ages, which made people wonder if their religion was providing them with the protection that they thought they deserved as good Christians.  If you remember that most people bought much of their food (and other essential goods as well)...and that wages did not keep pace with prices...then you can see how difficult this new and poorly understood phenomenon of inflation was for them.

Here is a chart that shows the sharp upturn in prices (in England) from about 1500.  The movement of prices is indicated by the green data points, while wages are indicated in orange. The blue line shows a five-year moving average in prices; the red trend-line shows a five-year moving average in wages. Note also that the scale is logarithmic.

The original source for this data produced rather less attractive charts:

This chart of prices was constructed on the basis of a changing basket of consumables, especially food:

E.H. Phelps Brown & Sheila V. Hopkins, Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables, Compared with Builders Wage Rates, Economica, n.s., 23 (1956), 296-314.  If you are connected to a university server, you can get the article by clicking here:  The chart in colour comes from