Sunday, August 24, 2014

Black Death

Black Death – Most Devastating Epidemics in Human History

One of the most devastating epidemics in human history which resulted in the death of millionsof people was in Europe in the years 1346 -53. The Black Death is the name given to a deadly plague which is often called bubonic plague and is more likely known to be pneumonic plague. It occurred during the 14th century and was believed to arrive from Asia in late 1348 causing more than one epidemic during that time.

Its impact on the English community from1349 to 1350 was very severe. Medical treatment was not helpful in any way and when the plague struck in England, it had a major impact on England’s social structure which resulted in the Peasants Revolt of 1381.Due to the plague, fields were not ploughed since they were the victim of the disease and harvest could not be done due to lack of manpower resulting in the village facing starvation.

Feudal Law – Feudal System

Black Death
Town and cities face food shortages as the villages which surrounded them could not provide them with enough food. Grain farming became less popular. The consequence of the Black Death was inflation where the price of food increased four times. The survivals of the Black Death were of the notion that there was something special about them and took the opportunity to improve their lifestyle. According to the feudal law, it was stated that the peasants could only leave their village with the lord’s permission and since most of the lords were in desperate need of labor for their land, encouraged peasants to leave the village and work for them.

Black Death
While the peasants agreed to work for them, they were not allowed to return to their original village. The lords were at the receiving end since peasants could demand increased wages and knew that the lords were desperately in need of labor for harvest. The government thus faced the prospect of peasants leaving their villages to get better options, thus upsetting the whole idea of the Feudal System which had been introduced to bind the peasants to the land. In fact, this movement by the peasants was encouraged by the lords with the intention to benefit from the Feudal System.

Aftermath – Series of Religious/Economic/Social Chaos 

Black Death
Though there were various competing theories to the etiology of the Black Death, analysis of the DNA gathered from victims in northern as well as southern Europe which were revealed in 2010 and 2011, showed that the pathogen that was responsible was Yersinia pestis bacterium which was probably the reason of several forms of plague. The Black Death is presumed to have begun in the arid plains of central Asia which then travelled along the Silk Road heading towards Crimea by 1343.

Thereafter it is likely to have been carried by Oriental rat fleas residing on the black rats who were the regular carriers on merchant ships thus spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. The plague reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350-375 million during the 14th century. Aftermath of the plague thus created a series of religious, economic as well as social chaos leading to profound effects in European history and it took around 150 years for the recovery of Europe’s population with the plague recurring occasionally in Europe till the 19th century.

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