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Black Death Essay, Research Paper

No one was exempt as it swept in off the shores and into the countryside laying its burden of death and pestilence. Europe had prospered readily for about 300 years prior to the beginning of the 1300 s but a series of natural disasters occurred. Poor harvests and famine were common and as the prosperous years came to a close, economies were in recession at the onset of the Black Death. Europe, on a whole, would take a step backward.

There have been plagues throughout recorded history, but none were of the magnitude nor had the far reaching effects that the Black Plague had. Its namesake came from symptomatic hemorrhages that turned black. Though most people associate the Black Death with the middle ages, forms of the Bubonic Plague have been known in China as early as 224 BC. The Black Death Embarked on a journey as an epidemic in the Gobi Desert in the 1320 s. By 1400, China s population of 125 million had been reduced to 90 million. Southwest Asia and Europe followed suite with strikingly similar losses in their population base. In 1347, the Kipchaks who were nomads from the Euro-Asian Steppe, were thought to deliberately infect a European city with the disease. The Kipchaks had laid siege to a Genoese trading post in Crimea. Hoping t weaken the defenders, they used a catapult to lob infected corpses into the compound. Trading vessels from Crimea subsequently brought cargo infested with the disease burdened rodents and crew west. Starting in Sicily in 1347, it began a four year reign of terror traveling as far as Greenland. During this four year it is believed Europe lost one third of its population.

The effects the Plague had on the economy and the laws governing the state were severe. England is a perfect example. By 1349, the population had been so severely decreased that the commoner had the upper-hand on the land-lords. This was significant in that they were able to demand a higher wage and the markedly increase in their mobility if one lord did not suit their needs. Without the manpower to cultivate and yield crops, the land-lords were in effect held without influence. The Parliament came to there rescue by imposing penalties and restricting the movement of the laborers and the limit the wages. Although this was effective at the time and serf s services continued, it resulted in revolt some 30 years later. The end economic result of the Plague was somewhat surprising. Prices dropped and wages increased. The latter not so surprising. Although not proven, the deflation of goods decreased because of a significant decrease in population. This agve rise to a new social relationship that would replace the status quo of centuries. A higher standard of living resulted for the lower class. Higher wages and a lower cost of living usually come with an opportunity of social advancement. By our standards, the advance was minimal, but considering the conditions of the time, it was considerable. The laws that the English

Parliament had passed to govern the lower class were not only a sign of changing times, but proof that a new era and social class were emerging.

Much of the Christian religion we see today was shaped from views developed by society at that time. Various forms of religious behavior developed, but were far from what we recognize today. One of the most gruesome replications were the resurgence of Flagellants. The Flagellants were convinced that the end of the world was at hand and the Plague was the Wrath of God . They traveled in organized bands, bound by vows to abstain from all physical pleasures and to endure tortures and whippings for days, in memory of the life of Christ. In truth most Christians did believe the cause of the Plague was God s wrath on a wicked Man. Many said they were doomed by their own wickedness. There were also others who believed themselves condemned and in today s wording Partied Hard with the thought, since tomorrow we die, let us eat, drink, and be merry.

The Catholic Church was injured both physically and emotionally. In Avignon, that had been the home of the Papacy for nearly a century lost greater than half its monks. Consequently, religious purity for the dying was hard to come by. This was not only a result of the priests trying to fulfill their duties and becoming infected, but also by those who sought to stay away. When recognizing what was happening around him, Pope Clement VI realized that nothing would be gained from his death and sought refuge in his chambers spending days sitting between two roaring fires on either side of him. One note of consolation to the medical field, was all this was done on the advice of the Papal physician. He survived as well as most of the upper class did by simply having the means to do so. People recognized the loss of the cleric alongside the peasant, lady of the court, and child. It didn t distinguish evil from good, but took the lives of all. Overall there was a negative effect on the popularity of the church. A struggle between faith and reason developed giving rise to religious, social, political unrest. Religious reformer John Wycliffe, in England and John Huss, in Bohemia were leaders of a couple of many sects that challenged Catholic Church s behavior and doctrine. Although decades later, these complaints eventually led to the formation of the Protestant Church.

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