The Effects of the Black Death

The Black Death was a widespread epidemic of the bubonic plague which killed an estimated one-third of the European population during the height of the disease from around 1346 to 1353. The highly and indiscriminately infectious disease was spread by infected fleas from small animals. Due to the high number of fleas, rodents, and other small animals aboard merchant ships, the plague spread quickly and devastatingly across the globe bringing death and destruction everywhere it went. Most plague victims would meet their end only two to seven days after being infected and displayed symptoms including, but not limited to: gangrene, abdominal pain, bleeding, and, of course, death.

Those who were around at the time of the outbreak and miraculously lived to tell the tale left behind chilling accounts of what they had experienced. For example, a chronicle written between the years of 1314 and 1350 describes the impact the plague had on society through the social and economical scene. This first hand description of the Black Death tells about how so many workers dies that there weren’t enough people to replace them. “There was such a shortage of servants, craftsmen, and workmen, and of agricultural workers and labourers…[that] churchmen, knights and other worthies have been forced to thresh their corn, plough the land and perform every other unskilled task if they are to make their own bread” (Black Death Chronicle). This quote describes how even those of high societal ranking had to do the tasks of peasants because all of theirs had died in the Black Death epidemic. The importance of this statement sheds light on how, even after the plague, Europe remained deeply affected by the sheer number of people who died.

On a more contemporary note, this news story reports on a recent contraction of the plague. Though extremely rare, there are still people being diagnosed with the bubonic plague. According to the story, a child in Idaho was recovering from the bubonic plague in July of 2018. Due to advancements in the medical field as well as modern technology, the bubonic plague can be identified early and be treated quite easily with the help of antibiotics. “The plague, in spite of its lethal reputation, is not uncommon in the U.S. and it is usually no longer a death sentence” (ABC News). The story speaks to the fact that the plague is treatable in today’s world, and that though it is highly infectious, “another “black death” is not coming.” It also mentions ways to avoid contracting and spreading the plague.

The two sources relate because they both speak to how infectious the plague is, and that it could easily wipe out a population if left untreated or in filthy conditions. These sources raise an issue of how we as a society deal with infectious outbreaks such as the plague. For example, the fairly recent outbreak of Ebola continues to devastate third-world countries in Africa. As a Minnesotan in 2018, there is very little to worry about such outbreaks due to modern medicine.

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