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What Christians believed caused the Black Plague Kathryn Lee

The plague, commonly referred to as the black death was”A great mortality … destroyed more than a third of the men, women and children” in the 14th and 15th century . The common ideology from about the origins and causes of the plague lead back to Aristotle’s “natural Philosophy.”  Natural Philosophy is the ideal that there are four causes to everything: a maker, a plan, material, and a reason for making it(). Every European, from commoners to doctors, believed that the plague’s “Maker” was god(1). They believed it was a punishment for sins, comparing the plague to bible stories such as Noah’s Arch or the plagues Moses set upon Egypt. It’s important to know this information because we can get a better understanding of the lives and ideologies of lives lead during the Black Plague. 

  1. Bryne, Joseph P. The Black Death. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.

“Chronicle of the Black Death.” The British Library. Accessed December 07, 2018. http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item103973.html.


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Modern Day Monopolies

Mansa Musa is known as the richest man in the world history. Most of this wealth that he had came from his monopoly of gold and salt businesses in Africa. 3025921

This image of Mansa Musa from 1312-1337 shows him holding a golden nugget, wearing gold, and sitting on a golden throne.  This significant stock of gold that Mansa Musa had helped him with his journey to Mecca.

Today’s wealthiest companies in the world get their money from monopolizing a certain market of goods. An article “America’s monopoly problem, in one chart” from Vox as an example of monopoly in our modern day states that, “The Open Markets Institute report lists four cellphone providers that control 98 percent of the market — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint”. This is just one example of a monopoly in the US. No matter what product you are looking for, food, clothes, cars, electronics, cat food, all of these industries have a couple of leading companies that control like 95% of the market.

A good example that would parallel with Mansa Musa is the Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, known to be the richest person in the world with net worth of around $141 billion. The article says that, “…[Amazon] could eventually become so big that it can control what shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS charge it, and, in areas where it becomes a dominant buyer of labor, could contribute to pushing employee wages down”. Now if you ask yourself if that’s a good thing, what would you say. I would say that it is a good thing, and that everyone loves Amazon, and yet even if you don’t like Amazon, there are still plenty of other places like eBay and Ali Express where you can shop. And later in the article the author says that, “Amazon last month announced it would raise its minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour”, so we don’t have to worry about the wages going down.

Now, you might ask, is monopoly a good thing or a bad thing? Was Mansa Musa’s monopoly of gold and salt businesses a bad thing? My answer would be that I don’t know. It depends what perspective you are looking at it from. The pros of modern day monopolies could be a lot of job opportunities. These big companies have enough money to hire people and create more jobs and make more products. Or you could say that people are just used to the companies that control the most of the market. Everyone likes the prices, is pleased with the product and don’t want any changes. The cons could be that smaller companies that want to start a business in a specific field would just get destroyed by other giant companies, and would run out of business. Or some people don’t like the mainstream products, and want something new. But I don’t see any people being mad at modern day monopolies. Everyone is used to the way the things are, and still the leading companies offer a variety of products that you can choose from. So I guess that monopolies in our world are a good thing.



British Museum, The Kingdom of Mali, Sheet 2, Source 6: Mansa Musa holding a gold ingot from the Catalan Atlas, 1375
© Bibliothèque National de France https://shanesafricaproject.weebly.com/primary-source1.html

Emily Steward (Nov 26, 2018). “America’s monopoly problem, in one chart”. https://www.vox.com/2018/11/26/18112651/monopoly-open-markets-institute-report-concentration


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Medieval Medicine

When I was on Pinterest I was this picture of a man with black fingers with the caption, “Paul Gaylord will lose his fingers after he contracted the black plague while attempting to rescue a choking cat”. I clicked on the pin and found out he would be getting his fingers and toes amputated. His cat had a rat stuck in its throat and he decided to take it out with his hand. When he went to the doctor they believed he had cat scratch fever. He went to the doctor again after he got worse and his organs began to fail because of being misdiagnosed. They dug up his cat since it died and tested it for the plague, which came back positive. He was intensive care and had to change his lifestyle to make sure it’s not a threat to his weak immune system.

I also found a journal and some manuscripts from the medieval times about medicine and treatments. The manuscripts mentioned how they would diagnose someone by reading pulses and urine. They also made comments about changing one’s diet

Today urine and pulses are still taken when you go to the doctor even for a checkup. Even then dietary advice was given and being told to make life changes that probably weren’t practised before. Paul had to clean and rebuild his house to make sure it would not damage his weak immune system in the future.

Minnesota is next to the west side so it can be a concern for us and also because of travelling. Minnesotan’s have lots of pets too, so what happened to this man could happen to us. Something innocent like saving our cat.

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The Plague

I found a news story on CNN reporting a plague outbreak in Madagascar last year. According to the article, health officials have “seen an unexpected number of cases of pneumonic plague, which transmits more easily from person to person. Of the 684 cases reported as of October 12, 474 were pneumonic plague, 156 bubonic and 1 septicemic plague” (CNN.com). Pneumonic plague is the only plague of the three that can spread via coughing or sneezing.

In the late Middle Ages, when the plague struck and killed ½ of the entire population of Europe, people were losing their minds. No one was safe from it, no matter their income or their bloodline, and according to Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer who described the onset of the Plague in The Decameron, the people were vastly different in how they handled the plague. Some hid away and avoided all luxury. Others, with the idea that they would die soon, began to live lavish lives in the hopes that they would die having at least enjoyed themselves. Everyone did whatever they wanted, partly because they were afraid of having lived unfulfilled lives and partly because so many of the religious figures and law enforcement were dead and the ones remaining were too few in number to really do anything. No one knew what was causing or spreading the plague. As a result, there were many superstitions and religious theories about where it came from. For example, large numbers of cats were killed by Europeans because of the belief that they were bad luck, which exacerbated the plague issue. The plague was predominantly spread by rats carrying infected fleas, and with a diminishing cat population, the plague-carrying rats spread even more. Boccaccio, like many others, believed that the “deadly pestilence came into the noble city of Florence because of the just wrath of God mandating punishment for our iniquitous ways” (Boccaccio, The Decameron).

The plague should matter to modern Minnesotans because it is still around, infecting people. Truthfully, I did not know that it is still around until I started researching. It does not have the same devastating effects today because their are antibiotics that can kill the plague bacteria, thankfully. But it is still there, and people should remember the effects it had on the world back in the day, and be amazed that what once wiped out half an entire continent can be treated now with antibiotics. It definitely amazed me.


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As Mansa Musa traveled on his storied Hajj he brought with him the generosity of Islam, and copious amounts of gold. So much so, that some of it need be melted down and given to servants to carry as walking sticks. The King of the Malian empire showed incredible generosity on his holy walk, gifting gold ingots to beggars, making charitable donations to other empires, and even ordering the construction of new mosques in the cities he visited. His lavish generosity earned him the approval of those areas he passed through on his journey to Mecca. Even looking back on this story today we can say without a doubt that Mansa Musa was a generous king.


However, gold is a precious metal, many of those areas he visited had previously held gold in high regard as a form of currency due to its scarcity. A sudden, massive influx of a precious currency is certainly going to cause problems for people in those areas, right?  Mansa Musa distributed literal tons of gold throughout his journey to Mecca, causing upheaval in the economies he visited. Hyperinflation ensued with the new abundance of currency. Prices for simple goods ballooned upwards as people had more money(gold) to spend and traders could ask for higher prices. Gold was suddenly significantly less valuable and Mansa Musa, unintentionally, brought decades of economic strife to the areas he visited. But how can we relate this to modern Americans?


Americans are unlikely to ever experience hyperinflation the way the empires that Mansa Musa visited did but that doesn’t mean we’re immune from inflation entirely. Each year Americans experience a 2-3% inflation, meaning the average cost of, just about everything, goes up by 2-3%. Those numbers aren’t nearly as frightening as the 1000+% inflation rates experienced in examples of hyperinflation, but they still do make an impact.


We have, in post-recession America, what is known as anchored inflation. Anchored inflation means that the Federal Reserve(Fed) has a goal to keep inflation rates around 2-3% per to combat runaway inflation. To manage this, they exercise what are known as rate hikes, meaning they dictate the amount of a bank’s total value they must keep on hand and not invested. When rates increase it means the there is less cash flow due to banks having to hold onto more of it. This means it become more expensive to borrow money regardless of who you are. This in turn trickles down to the consumer in the form of higher interest payments when borrowing. This is an important issue as we reach record low unemployment levels. The more rates rise the less likely businesses will be to seek loans for new ventures (less hiring) dues to increased interest rates. On the other hand, keeping rates low too long could mean increased inflation. It’s a balancing act and a difficult one at that. The thing is, no one entirely agrees on how rate hikes do and don’t affect the American economy. With the introduction of new tariffs and ever-increasing debt only time will tell how well the Fed can, or can’t, keep inflation from getting out of hand

Contemporary Source

Primary Source

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Gene Editing Research Combating Infectious Diseases

Throughout history there have been numerous accounts of sickness and disease. They have been described as many things such as a deity punishing it’s people or as sickness that crosses the land spreading death wherever it appears. Some major notable accounts have been identified today as plague. One such plague was the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague, occurred in the 14th century devastating the human population. It spread quickly from person to person, town to town, and many first hand accounts of it held a cloud of despair. One chronicle of this from the British Library holds one such description being, after translation, “A great mortality … destroyed more than a third of the men, women and children. As a result, there was such a shortage of servants, craftsmen, and workmen, and of agricultural workers and labourers, that a great many lords and people, although well-endowed with goods and possessions, were yet without service and attendance. Alas, this mortality devoured such a multitude of both sexes that no one could be found to carry the bodies of the dead to burial, but men and women carried the bodies of their own little ones to church on their shoulders and threw them into mass graves, from which arose such a stink that it was barely possible for anyone to go past a churchyard.”


Today scientists have a better understanding of infectious diseases like the plague. Some major parts of what let the bubonic plague spread so easily was that there was not any suitable sanitation, and that they had no treatment for it. Now there are multiple ways to detect diseases using blood tests, urine tests, throat swabs, spinal taps, image scans, biopsies and others. Once the cause of an illness has been determined a treatment can typically be easily identified. The plague which caused so many deaths in the 14th century can easily be overcome now with simple antibiotics. There are also many other things that are simply treated now as well. Antifungals are used to treat skin or nail infections caused by fungi, and even sever internal organ fungal infections can be treated by injecting the treatment into the bloodstream. Some drugs are also able to treat diseases spread by parasites like malaria. Many infectious diseases can be treated easily, but there are still many that can’t be cured. Some of those include sexually transmitted diseases like: HIV/AIDS, Herpes, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.


While those diseases can’t be completely treated there has been research in finding ways to prevent people from contracting them at all. Gene changing research has found a way to target the HIV gene and make it so that someone can become resilient to HIV. The fact that chinese scientists have claimed to have produced a successful birth of twin girls with HIV resilience is huge because gene changing research is illegal in many states. With CRISPR, the tool used to change the HIV ‘doorway,’ humans can eventual create designer babies that only have it’s parents wanted characteristics. There is also so much controversy and debate on this subject that the chinese government and the Shenzhen Harmonicare Women’s and Children’s Hospital have distanced themselves claiming the the research wasn’t conducted at the hospital, and the government claims that there with be a severe investigation into the subject.

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The Plague in Madagascar

Contrary to popular belief, the pneumonic plague has not died off, in fact, Madagascar has to worry seasonally about new outbreaks, according to this Washington Post Article. This form of the plague can easily kill an infected person within a couple days or even worse within a day. The pneumonic plague contains the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium was also in the bubonic plague that caused the “Black Death” in Europe. Prior to the outbreak of the pneumonic plague, the bubonic plague was the most common plague encountered, but when the bubonic plague is left untreated it travels to the lungs and becomes the pneumonic plague. In the inland city of Ankazobe, the plague is known to live in fleas and rodents. A young man traveled to Ankazobe, contracted the plague, and then died on the way back to Toamasina in the city of Antananarivo. Not surprisingly the two most infected cities are Toamasina and Antananarivo. Due to this outbreak, many gatherings and sporting events were canceled in an attempt to halt the plague. The main problem is that not everyone has access to healthcare and if the symptoms are not caught right away, death is inevitable.

By researching more into the spread of the plague in Madagascar I stumbled upon the academic study Plague, a Reemerging Disease in MadagascarThis study provided even more details and statistics into the current spread of the plague. One scary fact that I found stated that, “in 1995, 10% of 625 rats trapped near a marketplace were infected with Y. pestis…” In Madagascar there is a “National plague Control Program” but it is extremely weakened by outside difficulties. Then in 1997, there were 2,127 suspected cases just from January to October. It was also found that rat deaths rise just as steadily as human deaths do.

The first source is a news report that had some facts but was more informatory than factual. The second source is an academic article with facts dating back to 1898. Although the article was published in 1998, there are still many commonalities between the two. One of those being that  Antananarivo was and still is one of the most infected cities. Personally, I myself am not affected directly. I did one day want to travel to Madagascar but after hearing that the plague is alive and thriving there, I think I am having second thoughts. I am very blessed to live in the America where we can afford the insecticides that Madagascar cannot. Minnesota, in fact, is home to one of the three Mayo Clinic’s existing. Mayo Clinic is well known for their popular studies and research. If the plague were to show up in Minnesota, we not only have the resources to fight it, but we also have the hospitals to contain and cure the infected.




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