The Light of the Black Death
The Black Death, a pestilence of despair and darkness, ravaged Western Europe from 1348-1350. The Black Death is also known as the “Black Plague” or “Bubonic Plague”, as the main symptoms of the plague were the blackening of the buboes, or, bubbles on the skin. However, despite all the dark thoughts, there was a revolution within the plague that gave Medieval Europe hope for a better future. This was due to the fact that the Black Death affected the society of the time in numerous ways. It changed things religiously, economically, socially, and scientifically. The feudal system suffered, the middle class grew, as did the economy. Likewise the plague also had a powerful effect on the worlds of science and medicine. After extensive research and work, medical advancements emerged from the devastation and brought around change in Europe such as post mortems, the discovery of bacteria and sanitation procedures which were previously unheard of in society. Society also experienced many changes in routines and thoughts, due to the concerns of the citizens and their actions. Doctors of the time were forced to research the plague and through this research many new discoveries were made. Although at this time they found no treatment or cure for the plague they made several significant advancements and developed a better understanding of diseases and the human immune system. Medicine also advanced when science began to take a role in the ideals of treatment, which proved to be worthwhile. “The plague also served as a catalyst for the Renaissance which was to occur soon after. It is very seldom that one event changes history so drastically” (Perry 189). This is why the plague was not solely a tragedy of the Medieval Ages, it was also a cornerstone for medical and societal growth and development in Europe.
Tragedy however, is a component of the Black Plague, aka the Black Death, there is no denying that. “It may have reduced world population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million. For a developing nation that is a major deficit that cannot be afforded.” (Sherman 265). The plague affected the young, the old, the strong and the weak, and left no one safe from its grasp. The Plague spread through most of Western Europe in a matter of months hitting even the rich along with the poor. “Children were left in the streets to fend for themselves after their parents died [From the Plague] because no one had the time nor energy to take in and aid another except themselves” (Herilhy 528). Population decreases were not the only effect of the Black Plague, but they were certainly the most drastic and had the most impact on the time period, and the developing world.
The dead were a main concern for the living of the time period. Most infected civilians lasted anywhere from a short twenty-four
hours, to the two day mark. “There were so many dead that Londoners had to dig mass graves (large trenches for many bodies)” (Britannica 450). The cities reeked of death and rot from the decomposing corpses left on doorsteps to be picked up and buried by the unlucky few designated with the task. “So many were dead that new jobs for the living were created to pick up the dead” (Thompson 22). The Plague era was a mentally traumatizing time for the citizens and it showed, “many were reported as “possessed” as time progressed on, paintings especially depict the abuse of said people” (Perry 345-46)
Whole villages faced starvation and food shortages, not even the surrounding towns had enough food to give out of pity. Crops died due to lack of attention and bad conditions, along with most agriculture. The lords who lost their man power to the disease lost most of their farming and suffered economically. The loss of workers severely affected all parties in the Western European culture. Inflation in living costs and made everyone’s life harder, along with the plague ravaging on, by 1349, most...
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