Black Death - What it was, and what effect it had on Europe in the 13th Century.

Essay by CrazyAsianHigh School, 12th gradeB, November 2002

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The plague of 1348-50, known as the Black Death or just "the Death," was the highly infectious disease now known as the bubonic plague; it's caused by a bacillus carried by fleas, which infest certain kinds of rodents including the prairie dogs of the American southwest. In its first pass through Europe it killed about one-third of the population and in some places as much as one-half; it returned to England, although in much less devastating fashion, two or three other times in the fourteenth century, and didn't finally disappear until after the so called Great Plague that devastated London in 1665. The demographic effects of the plague were tremendous. Although exactness is difficult to achieve in this area, it is generally agreed that England did not return to its pre plague population level until around the seventeenth century. The cultural effects of the plague are much more very difficult to determine there is little in English artistic or literary production of the second half of the century that can be attributed with any confidence to the plague.

There seems to have been nothing like the immense psychic disruption that accompanied the two great plagues of our century, the First and Second World Wars and especially the First, which transformed the way in which Europeans thought about themselves and their collective future.

The economic and social consequences of the fourteenth-century plague were enormous and well documented. Prior to 1348 medieval Europe was beginning to suffer from a Malthusian crisis an imbalance, that is, between population and food production. There were recurrent famines in the first half of the century, especially in 1314-1320, there was little land available for new cultivation, and the traditional feudal structures of lordship and obedience were under strain. The plague shifted the balance of power dramatically...