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The Black Death The Wrath of God. Black death and effects Introduction The Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late.

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Presentation on theme: "The Black Death The Wrath of God. Black death and effects Introduction The Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Black Death The Wrath of God

2 Black death and effects Introduction The Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late Middle Ages. The changes between the two periods are numerous; they include the introduction of gunpowder, increased importance of cities, economic and demographic crises, political dislocation and realignment, and powerful new currents in culture and religion

3 Origins of the Plague The Black Death erupted in the Gobi Desert in the late 1320s. No one really knows why. The plague bacillus was alive and active long before that; indeed Europe itself had suffered an epidemic in the 6th century. But the disease had lain relatively dormant in the succeeding centuries. We know that the climate of Earth began to cool in the 14th century, and perhaps this so- called little Ice Age had something to do with it

4 About the Disease What was this disease? Bubonic plague is the medical term. It is a bacillus, an organism, most usually carried by rodents. Fleas infest the animal (rats, but other rodents as well), and these fleas move freely over to human hosts. The flea then regurgitates the blood from the rat into the human, infecting the human. The rat dies. The human dies. The flea's stomach gets blocked and it eventually dies of starvation. It's a grim disease for everyone. Symptoms include high fevers and aching limbs and vomiting of blood. Most characteristic is a swelling of the lymph nodes. These glands can be found in the neck, armpits and groin. The swelling protrudes and is easily visible; its blackish coloring gives the disease its name: the Black Death. The swellings continue to expand until they eventually burst, with death following soon after. The whole process, from first symptoms of fever and aches, to final expiration, lasts only three or four days. The swiftness of the disease, the terrible pain, the grotesque appearance of the victims, all served to make the plague especially terrifying. It shows relation to „Salmonella” and „Escherichia coli”.

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6 Forms of the Disease Bubonic plague is usually fatal, though not inevitably so. Today, we have drugs that can cure it, if administered in time. But if the victim is already at risk, through malnutrition or other illness, it is more deadly. There were plenty of people in the 1340s who were at risk. Even so, historians have been hard pressed to explain the extraordinary mortality of the 1348 outbreak. Our best guess is that there was more than one variety of plague at work in Europe. There are two other varieties of plague: septicaemic plague, which attacks the blood, and pneumonic plague, which attacks the lungs. The latter is especially dangerous as it can be transmitted through the air. Both these two are nearly 100% fatal.

7 The origins of the disease

8 The Plague Approaches Europe The plague moved along the caravan routes toward the West. By 1345 the plague was on the lower Volga River. By 1346 it was in the Caucasus and the Crimea. By 1347 it was in Constantinople. It hit Alexandria in the autumn of that year, and by spring 1348, a thousand people a day were dying there. In Cairo the count was seven times that. The disease travelled by ship as readily as by land—more readily—and it was no sooner in the eastern Mediterranean than it was in the western end as well. Already in 1347, the plague had hit Sicily.

9 Arrival in the West It reached Cyprus late in summer In Oct. 1347, a Genoese fleet landed at Messina, Sicily. By winter it was in Italy. January 1348, the plague was in Marseilles. It reached Paris in the spring 1348 and England in September Moving along the Rhine trade routes, the plague reached Germany in 1348, and the Low Countries the same year was the worst of the plague years. It took longer to reach the periphery of Europe. Norway was hit in May The eastern European countries were not reached until 1350, and Russia not until Because the disease tended to follow trade routes, and to concentrate in cities, it followed a circuitous route: the Near East, the western Mediterranean, then into northern Europe and finally back into Russia. The progress of the plague very neatly describes the geography of medieval trade.

10 Population Loss Froissart's estimate of the population loss was about right, which is ironic because Froissart wildly exaggerated numbers in almost all his accounts. But the best of many revised estimates still put the overall population loss in Europe at about one- third. This bears re-stating. The plague came to Europe in the fall of By 1350 it had largely passed out of western Europe. In the space of two years, one out of every three people was dead. Nothing like that has happened before or since. These general numbers disguise the uneven nature of the epidemic. Some areas suffered little, others suffered far more. Here are some examples. Between 45% and 75% of Florence died in a single year. One-third died in the first six months. Its entire economic system collapsed for a time.

11 Economic Disruption Cities were hit hard by the plague. Financial business was disrupted as debtors died and their creditors found themselves without recourse. Not only had the debtor died, his whole family had died with him and many of his kinsmen. There was simply no one to collect from. Construction projects stopped for a time or were abandoned altogether. Guilds lost their craftsmen and could not replace them. Mills and other special machinery might break and the one man in town who had the skill to repair it had died in the plague. We see towns advertising for specialists, offering high wages. The labor shortage was very severe, especially in the short term, and consequently, wages rose. Because of the mortality, there was an oversupply of goods, and so prices dropped. Between the two trends, the standard of living rose... for those still living.

12 Political Effects The plague had no permanent effect on the course of politics, but it did take its toll. King Alfonso XI of Castile was the only reigning monarch to die of the plague, but many lesser notables died, including the queens of Aragon and France, and the son of the Byzantine emperor. Parliaments were adjourned when the plague struck, though they were reconvened. The Hundred Years' War was suspended in 1348 because so many soldiers died. But it started up again, soon enough.

13 Cultural/Religious Effects As the chroniclers said, the plague touched everyone, rich and poor alike. The whole community of scholars suffered as universities and schools, usually located in regions hardest hit, were closed or even abandoned. Sixteen of the forty professors at Cambridge died. Likewise in the institutions of the Church. The priests died and no one could hear confession. The Black Death hit the monasteries especially bad. Bishops died, and so did their successors and even their successors. A s a result of this the clergy was for a certain period rather inexperienced, without training and experience. People tried to make an effective medicine. For example: get a living frog and put it to the blister. If the frog dies, you will recover. In the Middle Ages plague was used as a weapon in wars. Soldiers threw dead bodies to the enemy’s area, so plague could spread between soldiers. 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.

14 Art The tone of despair appears eventually in the art of the times, though not immediately. By the later 1300s, when many parts of Europe had been visited two or three times by the disease, there appears a strain of grisly morbidity that is still compelling. One striking example can be seen in tomb sculptures. A great lord was buried in a sarcophagus: the body was in a coffin, which in turn was in a larger stone casing that was usually decorated. The sides might be decorated with religious carvings, but the lid of the tomb often held the likeness of the one entombed

15 Art (count.) Italy: Boccaccio – The Decameron Petrarch – Letters England: Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales William Langland – Piers Plowman Not surprisingly many people believed that the horror of the Black Death signaled the Apocalypse.

16 The End


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