Unveiling the Horror: The Black Death and its Catastrophic Impact on Europe
“The Black Death”, “The Great Mortality”, “The Bubonic Plague”, all of these refer to a time in history where disease followed by death were almost inevitable. Disease was covering Europe and killing its people without hesitation; death rates were unbelievably high.
The Ravaging Plague
It is important to realize that about 1/3 of the world’s population was lost during this awful time and the people, at this time, did not understand the plague. They had no idea what was causing this sickness and even thought that slaughtering cats could be the answer. The medical knowledge at this time also made it harder to end the plague due to the limited knowledge they possessed. The doctors of the plague knew so little that they believed they could not be infected with this disease. All of these factors led to the spreading of the disease and mass death in Europe. The Black Death began with tiny creatures that are usually completely ignored by humans, fleas. The bacterium, Y pestis, inhabit the digestive tract of these insects and, because of their small size, the disease spread like wild fire. The disease originally resided in rats, and then rat fleas would suck the blood of the rats, becoming infected themselves.
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After a single flea bite, a human would die within a week or less; the quickness of this disease also caused the death rates to climb at exponential rates. The infected human would begin to cough and ache, followed by the appearance of large black boils.1 Next the person would begin to throw up blood and could then have high fevers causing hallucinations.1 Between humans, exposure to body fluid was the only thing needed to become infected and this meant that a simple cough, spreading saliva, could infect anyone nearby.
Between 1347 and 1352, 25 million people were infected and killed by the Black Death.1 Although this seems to be an unimaginable number, the amount of death rates in Justinian’s Plague could have been anywhere from 25 million to 50 million. Because the Black Death caused so many people to die, many jobs were open for those who were left. Peasants were given an opportunity to take on higher paying jobs and possibly do better for themselves. The government, however, began to put laws in place that caused these peasants to not make the money they deserved. Laws and limitations like these are what caused the English Revolt of 1381. The peasants did not believe that this was fair treatment, and so they fought for more rights.
Religious Disruption and Quality
The Ciompi Revolt began over the desire of more rights by the merchant class, which of course was denied by the government. These people rebelled and fought for the rights they felt they deserved. These brave men do in fact take over the oligarchy, however, they were not able to continually keep this power. Because the plague was taking out large masses of people at once, priests were becoming few and far between. Priests were extremely important to have around, however, and therefore the requirements for becoming a priest were done away with.
People of all ages and backgrounds could be priest now and this greatly lower the quality of these priests. One had to have no background of the church and was not required to possess any particular amount of religious knowledge to become a priest. They simply had not been trained and did not know enough about the religion to be a leader in religious affairs.
Even the quality of services for the dead were lowered and the rituals were all but cut out completely. The rate at which people were dying did not allow time for a full ceremony, but only for the bodies to be placed in a graveyard with the other victims of the plague. This plague was a gruesome time for all of Europe and many places suffered massive losses. As previously written, nearly 25 million people died in just under 5 years due to this death ridden Bubonic Plague. The rate at which this disease spread made the situation even worse because doctors could not isolate the infected fast enough. The Bubonic Plague was a negatively extraordinary disease that killed millions in Europe and one can only pray it never appears again.
- “The Black Death: A Personal History” by John Hatcher
- “The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time” by John Kelly
- “The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe” by Robert S. Gottfried