The Black Death

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| The Black Death
The plague in 14th century England - causes and consequences.| | |
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English History |
The Black Death in England 1348-1350In 1347 a Genoese ship from Caffa, on the Black Sea, came ashore at Messina, Sicily. The crew of the ship, what few were left alive, carried with them a deadly cargo, a disease so virulent that it could kill in a matter of hours. It is thought that the disease originated in the Far East, and was spread along major trade routes to Caffa, where Genoa had an established trading post. When it became clear that ships from the East carried the plague, Messina closed its port. The ships were forced to seek safe harbour elsewhere around the Mediterranean, and the disease was able to spread quickly.During the Medieval period the plague went by several names, the most common being "the Pestilence" and "The Great Mortality ". Theories about the cause of the disease were numerous, ranging from a punishment from God to planetary alignment to evil stares. Not surprisingly, many people believed that the horrors of the Black Death signaled the Apocalypse, or end of time. Others believed that the disease was a plot by Jews to poison all of the Christian world, and many Jews were killed by panicked mobs.The truth. The Black Death is a bacteria-born disease; the bacteria in question being Yersinia pestis, which was carried in the blood of wild black rats and the fleas that lived off the rats. Normally there is no contact between these fleas and human beings, but when their rat hosts die, these fleas are forced to seek alternatives - including humans! The symptoms. The plague produces several different symptoms in its victims. Bubonic, the most common form of the plague, produces fist-sized swellings, called bulboes, at the site of flea bites - usually in the groin, armpits, or neck. The swellings are intensely painful, and the victims die in 2-6 days. The buboes are red at first, but later turn a dark purple, or black. This black colouring gives the "Black Death" its name. Pneumonic plague occurs when the infection enters the lungs, causing the victim to vomit blood. Infected pneumonic people can spread the disease through the air by coughing, sneezing, or just breathing! In Septicemic plague the bacteria enters the person's bloodstream, causing death within a day.The speed with which the disease could kill was terrifying to inhabitants of the medieval world. The Italian author Boccaccio claimed that the plague victims "ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise." The Black Death reaches England. The summer of 1348 was abnormally wet. Grain lay rotting in the fields due to the nearly constant rains. With the harvest so adversely affected it seemed certain that there would be food shortages. But a far worse enemy was set to appear.It isn't clear exactly when or where the Black Death reached England. Some reports at the time pointed to Bristol, others to Dorset. The disease may have appeared as early as late June or as late as August 4....
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