2Black death and effects IntroductionThe Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late Middle Ages. The changes between the two periods are numerous; introduction of gunpowder, cities, and powerful new currents in culture and religion
3Origins of the PlagueThe Black Death erupted in the Gobi Desert in the late 1320s. No one really knows why. 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.
4About the DiseaseBubonic plague is the medical term. It is 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, 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.
6Forms of the DiseaseBubonic 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.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.
8The Plague Approaches Europe The plague moved along the caravan routes toward the West.. 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.
9Arrival in the WestJanuary 1348, the plague was in Marseilles. It reached Paris in the spring 1348 and England in September 1348.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.The eastern European countries were not reached until 1350, and Russia not until 1351.
10Population LossBut 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.
11Economic DisruptionCities 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.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.
12Cultural/Religious Effects The plague touched everyone rich and poor alike.The Black Death hit the monasteries especially bad. The priests died and no one could hear confession. As a result of this the clergy was for a certain period rather inexperienced, without training and experience.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.