Impact[change | change source]
It killed between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. Including in the Middle East, India and China, it killed at least 75 million people.
The same disease is thought to have returned to Europe every generation with different degrees of intensity and fatality until the 1700s. Later outbreaks include the Italian Plague of 1629-1631, the Great Plague of London (1665–1666), the Great Plague of Vienna (1679), the Great Plague of Marseille in 1720–1722 and the 1771 plague in Moscow. There is some controversy over the identity of the disease, but in its virulent form seems to have disappeared from Europe in the 18th century.
The Black Death had a very big effect on Europe's population. It changed Europe's social structure. It was a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in widespread persecution of minorities such as Jews, Muslims, foreigners, beggars and lepers. The uncertainty of daily survival influenced people to live for the moment, as illustrated by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron (1353).
The initial fourteenth-century European event was called the "Great Mortality" by contemporary writers and, with later outbreaks, became known as the 'Black Death'.
Media[change | change source]
The Black Death has been used as a subject or as a setting in modern literature and media. Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Masque of the Red Death (1842) is set in an unnamed country during a fictional plague that bears strong resemblance to the Black Death.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Black Death.|
Medical aspects[change | change source]
Sufferers of the bubonic plague develop fevers, severe flu symptoms and buboes that could swell to the size of an average apple. These buboes appear mainly in the groin, armpit and apparently sometimes on the thighs. The buboes were not only large but also were filled with pus and turned a purple color.
The medical knowledge of the time was based on Hippocrates' theory. According to Hippocrates, the body consists of different fluids. If they are in harmony, the person is healthy. If they are not, disease results. Very often, diseases were also seen as a punishment of God. Such a theory can of course not account for the spreading of a disease from one person to another one. Spreading of disease was said to occur from bad winds (called Miasma). The bad air could also come from within the earth, and thereby cause the disease. Remedies against the disease included to only open windows towards the north, to not sleep during the day, and not to work too hard. The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Paris concluded that the Black Death was caused by a bad constellation of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. This constellation had occurred on 20 March, 1345. They had been asked by Philipp VI about the cause of the disease in 1348. Since the answer was scientifically founded, it was soon taken to be the real cause, and translated into many languages.
Therefore, the doctors often limited their actions to telling people to go to Confession, so that their sins would be forgiven if they died. In the long run, the pandemics caused the doctors to change their ideas on how the human body worked, to get away from the theories of Hyppocrates and Galenos, more towards empirical science. Only 200 years later did Girolamo Fracastoro discover that diseases spread through infection.
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
Other websites[change | change source]
Primary sources online[change | change source]
- Agnolo di Tura's account
- Gabriele de' Mussi's account
- Marchionne di Coppo di Stefano Buonaiuti's account
- A Petrarch account and More quotes from Petrarch
Secondary sources online[change | change source]
- The History Guide "Satan Triumphant: The Black Death"
- Symptoms, causes, pictures of bubonic plague
- Overview of the black death
- BBC news story on controversy over Black Death origins
- Examination of "Ring around the Rosy"'s relationship to the plague
- Black Death Overview from BBC history
- Plague and Public Health in Renaissance Europe. Primary source documents and analyisis
- Secrets of the Dead . Mystery of the Black Death PBS
- Pandemics in Eastern Europe