Black Death

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Black Death

Black Death


The “Black Death” is the name given to the great pandemic of plague that ravaged parts of Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Contemporaries knew it by many names, including the “Great Pestilence,” the “Great Mortality,” and the “Universal Plague.” This epidemic was the first and most devastating of the second known cycle of widespread plague, which recurred in waves through the eighteenth century. Some later and milder “plagues” seem to have also involved other diseases, including influenza, smallpox, and dysentery.

Thesis Statement

The Black Death decimated economy, along with the population affected almost all sectors of life in Europe. However, Black Death that caused the death of millions of people became a cause of the improvement in the field of Medicine.


The years that the Black Death fell across Europe have long been accepted as pivotal ones in history. The feudal hierarchy and the Church that supported it were both shaken to their foundations. Europe emerged on the other side of this flea-borne pestilence a different place, in which long-accepted notions of truth were now in question and money, not promises, provided the means of purchasing a man's labor and loyalty.

According to a prognostication, the Black Death slayed between 30 and 50% of Europe's population in five years, making about twenty-five million people. This epidemic had lasting consequences on European civilization, especially after this first wave, then refit the disease appeared regularly in the various affected countries: between 1353 and 1355 in France, and between 1360 and 1369 in England. Repeated epidemics of what was likely bubonic plague that devastated much of Asia and Europe starting in the fourteenth century. It then jumped to Europe, where one-third of the population (some 25 million people) died in the first outbreak, 1347-1350. It arrived in Europe by many routes, including on Genoese galleys fleeing infection and Crimean Tartars in 1246.

Social and Economic Consequences

Post-plague life presented profound changes and challenges to the socioeconomic and religious structures of Europe. Villages were depleted of inhabitants and the agriculturally dominated society, so dependent on a labor force, faced a paucity of healthy workers. Peasants found themselves in a position of proportional power and were able to bargain for more rights and real wages. Improvements in long-term status and rising expectations in the standard of living dominated the lower echelons of society. They were willing to fight and die to protect the gains that the Black Death enabled them to make. When kings attempted to reassert the earlier status quo through oppressive taxation, as was the case in England in 1381, the peasants would revolt in retaliation.

The long years of intense depression and the aftershock of great and sudden loss of the population, combined with a need to understand how to treat or prevent such problems in the future, led to the intellectual sea change known as the Renaissance. Art and funerary practices during the years surrounding the Black Death were dominated by dark images of death and ...
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