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The Black Death, 1348-1350

The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1347 and 1351.

Tina S
Tina S
Dec 14, 2009
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The Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late Middle Ages. The changes between the two periods are numerous; they include the introduction of gunpowder, increased importance of cities, economic and demographic crises, political dislocation and realignment, and powerful new currents in culture and religion. Overall, the later Middle Ages are usually characterized as a period of crisis and trouble.
The Black Death did not because the crisis, for evidence of the changes can be seen well before 1347. But the plague exacerbated problems and added new ones, and the tone of crisis is graver in the second half than in the first half of the century.

About Disease

The Black Death came in three forms, the bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. Each different form of plague killed people in a vicious way. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but this view has recently been challenged. Usually thought to have started in Central Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346 and from there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.

The sing of Impending death

No doctor's advice, no medicine could overcome or alleviate this disease, an enormous number of ignorant men and women set up as doctors in addition to those who were trained. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400.

Either the disease was such that no treatment was possible or the doctors were so ignorant that they did not know what caused it, and consequently could not administer the proper remedy. In any case very few recovered; most people died within about three days of the appearance of the tumours described above, most of them without any fever or other symptoms.

The violence of this disease was such that the sick communicated it to the healthy who came near them, just as a fire catches anything dry or oily near it. And it even went further. To speak to or go near the sick brought infection and a common death to the living; and moreover, to touch the clothes or anything else the sick had touched or worn gave the disease to the person touching.

Some thought that moderate living and the avoidance of all superfluity would preserve them from the epidemic. They formed small communities, living entirely separate from everybody else. They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures.

Others thought just the opposite. They thought the sure cure for the plague was to drink and be merry, to go about singing and amusing themselves, satisfying every appetite they could, laughing and jesting at what happened. They put their words into practice, spent day and night going from tavern to tavern, drinking immoderately, or went into other people's houses, doing only those things which pleased them. This they could easily do because everyone felt doomed and had abandoned his property, so that most houses became common property and any stranger who went in made use of them as if he had owned them. And with all this bestial behavior, they avoided the sick as much as possible.

 

Effect over time

The Black Death is the name later given to the epidemic of plague that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351. The disaster affected all aspects of life.

Depopulation and shortage of labor hastened changes already inherent in the rural economy; the substitution of wages for labor services was accelerated, and social stratification became less rigid. Psychological morbidity affected the arts; in religion, the lack of educated personnel among the clergy gravely reduced the intellectual vigor of the church.

So much death could not help but tear economic and social structures apart. Lack of peasants and laborers sent wages soaring, and the value of land plummeted. For the first time in history the scales tipped against wealthy landlords as peasants and serfs gained more bargaining power. Without architects, masons and artisans, great cathedrals and castles remained unfinished for hundreds of years. Governments, lacking officials, floundered in their attempts to create order out of chaos.
Art was also a victim of the Plague because paintings are a lasting record. The art is still an easy thing to find and a good reminder of how the most creative people can panic when there's panic around them. The plague benefited art. Death inspired artists to stray from religious pictorials.

The middle 14th century was not a good time for Europe. The European economy was already in difficulties. It was approaching the limits of expansion, both on its frontiers and in reclaiming land from forest and swamp. The arrival of the Mongols and the Ottomans had disrupted trade routes, and certain areas of Europe were edging into depression.
The Black Death changed the demography of Europe substantially. Aside from the Plague deaths, there was also a decline in the birth rate. The net result was that by 1400, Europe's population was half what it had been in 1345.

The labor shortage was very severe, especially in the short term, and consequently, wages rose. Because of the mortality, there was an oversupply of goods, and so prices dropped.
The demand for agricultural workers gave survivors a new bargaining power. Workers formerly bound to the land could now travel and command higher wages for their services.
Governments also had to adapt. Land was abandoned, rents were not paid, and tax revenue declined. This had a drastic effect on the war, as the wages of mercenary soldiers increased while available tax revenue decreased by more than 50 percent.

In addition, people left rural areas and migrated to cities for higher wages. The economic structure of land-based wealth shifted. Portable wealth in the form of money, skills and services emerged. Small towns and cities grew while large estates and manors began to collapse. The very social, economic, and political structure of Europe was forever altered. One tiny insect, a flea, toppled feudalism and changed the course of history in Europe.
 


 


 
Keywords: The Black Death, 1348-1350,Europe,effects of black death,plague ,Europe's population,Middle Ages, plague disease,Depopulation and shortage of labor.



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