In the 1300’s, a disease known as the Bubonic plague tore through parts of Asia North Africa, and Europe. This plague- commonly known as the “black death”- originated in Asia, and used the trade routes to travel to other cities, allowing the plague to strike many major cities. The plague took away lives of around 25 million people. The plague not only claimed many lives during its reign, but had a tremendous effect on Europe economically, politically, and socially. The Bubonic plague socially weakened family relationships and the faith of the church, politically lessen the power of the nobles, ending feudalism, and economically destroyed trade.
The Bubonic Plague caused family members to become disloyal to each other, and disrupted faith in the church. Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron talks about the effect the plague had toward families, “This scourge had implanted so great a terror in the hearts of men and women that..., even worse,... fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their own child.” (Doc 2), describing negligence and abandonment family members suffered through. With so many abandonments, death engulfed most of those affected. Boccaccio writes emotionally, which is shown when he describes the dreadful effects of the plague. As people were denied hospitality and treatment from even the people closest to them, death took over many lives. In The Triumph of Death, the skeleton represents the plague easily running people over and killing them (Doc 3) “and none could be found to bury the dead…members of a household brought their dead to a ditch…without priests, without divine offices,”(Doc 6). Death was depicted celebrating as it ran over all types of people, which shows how the painter views the plague- a skeleton that takes away others’ lives. Agnolo di Tura may have a negative view towards the Bubonic plague because he was an Italian who was likely angered at the fact that his country’s people died and that the churches did absolutely nothing to help Italians during a time of crisis, leaving bodies buried without blessing. Medieval Europeans “became stupefied by seeing the pain” (Doc 6) and began to question the authority of God. In addition, they did not have clergy members available to properly bury the endless number of dead and therefore, created a general loss of faith in the church.
The Bubonic plague politically affected Europe by weakening the nobles and stopping their rule which later led to the end of feudalism. The route the plague took went through major cities in Europe, such as Genoa (Doc 1), which allowed the plague to affect countless people of all classes. Being a noble was not an exception from getting affected by the plague. During the reign of the Bubonic plague, even those with high political ranks became sick, leaving them in bed to heal. One way the victims were “treated” was using leeches to clean the blood (Doc 5). This treatment was believed to clean out the contaminated blood and freshen up the body. However, they were more harmful than beneficial to the victim’s body by reducing their blood supply and weakening their immune system, which resulted in the increase of deaths. In the illuminated manuscript, the men surrounding the bed of the king are doctors that came to heal the sick king. Their expressions show that they know blood cleaning is not the best way to treat a man sick with the Bubonic plague but still used it because it was a common belief. With the number of deaths growing rapidly, the workforce was decreasing and needed new workers. The serfs began to leave their manors in search of better opportunities. The lack of workers allowed serfs to receive higher wages and better working conditions than what they had at the manor. As the serfs left the manor, the nobles lost their power and resulted in the end of feudalism. An additional document from a serf would be useful in telling for why they chose to move to the city to earn a better living while risking their chances for being affected by the plague. Some may decide to continue living a safe life at the manor instead of moving to the major cities however, majority of the serfs decided to risk their lives and getting better working opportunity. The document could better explain the serfs’ reason which led to the end of feudalism.
The Bubonic plague economically affected medieval Europe by destroying the trade system. The plague spread along the major trade routes, such as the Silk Road, moving from East Asia to Europe (Doc 1). By 1351, nearly all of Europe had been affected by the plague. However, cities along the trade routes were hit the hardest (Doc 4). The spread of the plague throughout Europe as a result of travel on the trade routes led to many of the populous European cities facing a loss of population due to the sickness which led to a significantly decreased number of people able to purchase goods from trade. Not only were there less people alive to buy and sell goods, they avoided each other’s contact to eliminate the risk of transmission of disease. Europe’s economy failed because of not having enough people alive to buy and sell goods and those alive keeping away not only from the trade goods that may transmit diseases but also other human beings as well.
Medieval Europe was greatly impacted by the Bubonic plague. The plague not only killed nearly 25 million people, but it drastically affected Europe politically, economically, and socially. Relationship with family members and the church was disrupted, nobles’ rule and feudalism ended, and the trade system was destroyed because of the plague that made such a significant impact on Medieval Europe. The history of the world would be different if the Bubonic plague had not existed.