The Black Death - Holland CSD

The Black Death - Holland CSD

The Black Death Before the Plague Life in Europe prior to 1347 was hard, tough, and relatively short. It had been that way for the peasantry for a long time. Due to the extremely high population, Lords had a vast reserve of inexpensive manpower and labor. Because of this, most peasants were tied to the land and had very little (if any) other options for work. Many places in Europe were horrendously overpopulated. Living conditions and sanitation were terrible. Often times, waste was simply dumped into the streets. The lack of sanitation and overcrowding created the perfect situation for disease to quickly spread.

Feudal System China In the early 1330s, an outbreak of the deadly bubonic plague occurred in China. The bubonic plague mainly affects rodents, but fleas can transmit the disease to people (in a disgusting sort of way). Once people are infected, they can infect others very rapidly. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. Since China was one of the busiest of the world's trading nations, it was only a matter of time before the plague spread to western Asia and Europe 1347

In October 1347, twelve trading ships docked at the Sicilian port of Messina after a long journey through the Black Sea. The people who gathered on the docks to greet the ships were met with a horrifying surprise. Some of the sailors aboard the ships were dead, and others were gravely ill. They were overcome with fever, unable to keep food down and delirious from pain. Strangest of all, they were covered in mysterious black boils. Too Late Even before the death ships pulled into port at Messina, many Europeans had heard rumors about a Great Pestilence that was decimating the trade routes of the Near and Far East. (Early in the 1340s, the disease had struck China, India, Persia, Syria and

Egypt.) The Sicilian authorities quickly ordered the fleet of death ships out of the harbor, but it was too late. Over the next five years, the mysterious Black Death would kill millions people in Europealmost one-third of the continents population. Giovanni Villani Having grown in vigor in Turkey and Greece and having spread thence over the whole Levant and Mesopotamiathe said pestilence leaped to Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica and Elba, and from there soon reached all the shores of the mainlandand many lands and cities were made

desolate, And the plague lasted till - Giovanni Villani, October 1347 (Villani left a blank space to fill in the end date of the plague.) He died of plague in 1348, leaving his chronicle incomplete. Spread of Disease No one knew exactly how the Black Death was transmitted from one patient to another, but there were theories. According to one doctor, for example, instantaneous death occurs when the aerial spirit escaping from the eyes of the sick man strikes the healthy person standing near and looking at the sickand no one knew how to prevent or treat

it. Spread of Disease In towns and cities, people lived very close together and they knew nothing about contagious diseases. One form of the disease was airborne, therefore highly contagious. It was also possible to become infected through the bites of fleas or ratswhich were very common due to the unsanitary conditions. Additionally, the disposal of bodies was very crude and helped to spread the disease still further as those who handled the dead bodies did not protect themselves in any way. Possible Causes (at the time)

Astrology: The alignment of the planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) caused a deadly corruption of air Bad Air: Poisonous air from swamps, lakes, and unburied/unburned corpses (the unburied corpses did actually contribute to the disease)

Earthquakes: Earthquakes are caused when toxic fumes build up in the earth and finally burst out Weather: Prior to the outbreak, the weather was extremely wet and previous winters were warm. (This actually may have contributed. With warmer weather, the black-rat flea may not hibernate, which would extend infection season) Symptoms

Giovanni Boccaccio- In men and women alike, at the beginning of the malady, certain swellings, under the armpitswaxed to the bigness of a common apple, others to the size of an egg, some more and some less, and these the vulgar named plague-boils. Blood and pus seeped out of these strange swellings, which were followed by a host of other unpleasant symptomsfever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, terrible aches and pains and then, in short order, death. The mere touching of the clothes, wrote Boccaccio, appeared to itself to communicate the malady to the toucher. The disease was also terrifyingly efficient. People who were perfectly healthy when they went to bed at night could be dead by morning. Types of the Plague

Bubonic plague: Patients develop sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes (called buboes). This form usually results from the bite of an infected flea. If the patient is not treated with the appropriate antibiotics, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body. 18%-20% survival. Pneumonic plague: Patients develop fever, headache, weakness, and a rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and sometimes bloody mucous. The pneumonia may cause respiratory failure and shock. This form of plague was airborne, therefore, spread through the air. First symptom to death was around two days. <1% survival Septicemic plague: Patients develop fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal pain,

shock, and possibly bleeding into the skin and other organs due to plague entering the bloodstream. Skin and other tissues may turn black and die, especially on fingers, toes, and the nose due to blood clots. Eventually, your blood loses the ability to clot and it seeps into all parts of the patients body. First system to death was about 24 hours. Treatments Physicians relied on crude and unsophisticated techniques such as: Lancing the Buboes: The swellings associated with the Black Death should be cut open to allow the disease to leave the body. It is said that foul-smelling pus that

emerged from the buboes was so bad that people in the room vomited. Bleeding: The disease must be in the blood (or the patient had too much blood). The veins leading to the heart should be cut open. Some locations to be cut open include: the cardiac vein, vein on foot (between big toe and the next toe). This will allow the disease to leave the body. An ointment made of clay and violets should be applied to the place where the cuts have been made.

Countering the Air: Good smells could counter the infected air (flowers, posies). Bad smells could counter the air (people seeking out public latrines and inhaling deeply) Plague Doctors Plague doctors are known for the bird-like masks. They were developed so doctors could but good-smelling materials in to counter the bad air, while keeping their hands free. While the good-smelling air did not work, the added layer of protection between doctor and fleas and patients body fluids did(while probably not intended). Think of it as an early form of a hazmat suit.

Punishment from God Many people believed that the Black Death was a kind of divine punishmentretribution for sins against God such as greed and blasphemy. By this logic, the only way to overcome the plague was to win Gods forgiveness. Some people believed that the way to do this was to purge their communities of heretics and other troublemakers. Some people coped with the terror and uncertainty of the Black Death epidemic by lashing out at their neighbors; others coped by turning inward and fretting about the condition of their own souls. Jewish Persecution

During this time of terror and uncertainty, the population needed to place blame. The Jews made were a convenient target (especially that some reports state that their mortality rate was significantly less than the rest of the population). The Jews were accused of poisoning the wells that towns drank from. Leaders of many towns would round up the Jewish members and execute them. Some Jews confessed to poisoning wells and planning to wipe out all Christians after being tortured. These confessions played into the fears of an already paranoid population. Pogroms (aimed attack or persecution of a religious or ethnic group) against Jews continued to spread throughout parts of Europe. Some towns destroyed wells and rounded up and executed their Jewish population BEFORE any sign of the plague reached them.

Jewish Practices Why was the amount of Jewish deaths due to plague less than the general population (at least from some reports)? Communities were often separate from Christian communities limiting their contact Passover- Homes get rid of food made from grain- Less food, less chance of rats

Traditions include handwashing prior to meals, something not common for much of the population Aftermath- Jewish Communities Estimated that at least 340 pogroms launched against Jewish communities. 80 Jewish towns were completed wiped off the map. All of this doesnt take into account the incidents that were not recorded. Eventually, the Pope even noted that Jews were dying at a rate similar to everyone else AND the plague hit towns hard that had already executed the Jewish population. Eventually Jews that had fled were invited back to

resettle in their hometowns. The Aftermath- Peasants The Black Death swept away around 60% of Europes population. It is estimated that about 25 million people died in Europe and about 100 million throughout the world. Peasants who survived the Black Death believed that there was something special about them almost as if God had protected them. Therefore, they took the opportunity offered by the disease to improve their lifestyle. Medieval society never recovered from the results of the plague. So many people had died that there were serious labor shortages all over Europe. This led workers to demand higher wages, but landlords refused those demands. By the end of the 1300s

peasant revolts broke out in England, France, Belgium and Italy. The Aftermath- The Church For many, this event led them to question their faith. The disease took its toll on the church. People throughout Christianity had prayed devoutly for deliverance from the plague. Why hadn't those prayers been answered? A new period of political turmoil and philosophical questioning lay ahead. This led to many looking towards science and free-thinking for answers, rather than always looking to the church.

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