The Black Death and the Transformation of the West

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Braeden Jensen
Herlihy, David. 1997. The Black Death and the Transformation of the West. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press.
Herlihy argues that the Black Death paved the way for an explosion of technological advances, greatly altered religion and theology, and completely transformed European society as a whole. The Black Death was catalystic for the transformation from a feudalistic society, to Europe as we now know it. Herlihy argues that the havoc wreaked by the Black Death and subsequent diseases spurred the creation of inventions that made living in a post-plague Europe more manageable. These inventions undoubtedly led to the Industrial Revolution and dramatic changes to the entire European economic system. The sudden plummet in population created a demand for labor and caused medieval peasants to become mobile and independent from lords as they sought after jobs. Despite hundreds of years of medical advancements and breakthroughs in epidemiology, we still live in a world full of AIDS, malaria, yellow fever and other devastating diseases. One of the most common diseases affecting Americans today is obesity. Obesity, which affects over a quarter of our nation, is the leading cause of premature death in America, but the saddest part is that obesity is almost completely preventable. Through simple lifestyle changes, we may be able to solve one of America’s biggest problems. The Black Death taught us the importance of preparing for these diseases by developing new vaccinations and antibiotics in hopes that we may someday be able to eradicate these diseases and save millions of lives.
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