Population, wages and women as bear-baiters
Marginalized Action Dinosaur of Canada has found evidence in Oxford's History of Britain that on a number of occasions "as labour shrank, wages rose; as the population declined so did the demand for food and supplies, and prices followed suit". Does this mean something for us today?
MAD's first example is the rise in wages after the Black Death in the 14th century. The Great Revolt that followed was the result of unfair attempts by landowners and Parliament to reduce wages and raise taxes on rural labourers and artisans. Though the Oxford persistently refers to these men as peasants, they emphatically called themselves free men who aimed to negotiate fair wages. They were in a position to do this because they had fewer competitors. Still, you might well wonder whether the overall economy suffered due to the population decline.
No, says Oxford, it was "an age of opportunity, ambition and affluence".
It seems pretty certain that your personal economic well-being depends on more than the number of your competitors, but MAD keeps finding the same interesting connection between fewer people and higher wages and more people and lower wages. Is it possible that the same connection is at work in Britain today, and wages are being depressed by the number of immigrants?
The Oxford excerpts make a number of intriguing points. In fourteenth century England, women "were paid the same as men - indeed, in bear-baiting they were paid more".