The Black Death in Europe: Introduction
It has been called by many names: The Black Death, The Bubonic Plague, The Great Pestilence. It is estimated to have killed upwards of one third of the population of Europe between 1348 and 1350. It destroyed families and wiped out entire towns. It also brought about great changes in Europe.
The physicians who tended to the sick and dying inadvertently aided in the development of modern medicine. Politicians and royals fell victim to the plague as well, leaving power vacuums that were often filled by those with different political viewpoints and alliances. The landscape itself changed. Fewer farmers worked the lands and fields fell fallow. It was a time of great change.
So what brought this highly contagious disease to Europe in the first place and where did it come from? While it appears to suddenly have disappeared in 1350, there were many more little plagues that followed. There is still a great deal of medical mystery surrounding the illness that beset Europe in the fourteenth century.
Before you begin exploring the cause of the Black Death and the great effects it had on fourteenth century Europe, think about what life was like at the time. Feudalism was the way of life for most people. The population was booming and large cities like London, Paris, and Rome were expanding rapidly – and without the modern day conveniences of hygienic plumbing and accessible healthcare. How did these things relate to the occurrence of the Black Death?
Watch the video below for a quick overview of life for the commoners during the period to get a sense of what the environment in Europe was like, and then begin your exploration on the Task page!
Excerpt from Life in Medieval Europe, from Classroom Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pypbyC548dw
Description: "The Black Death, 1348," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2001).
Description: Young, Ed. "The Lost Plague – London Graveyards Suggest That Black Death Strain May Be Extinct." The Lost Plague – London Graveyards Suggest That Black Death Strain May Be Extinct. Discover Magazine, 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2012. .
Description: This medieval epic is set in a village, circa 1350. The drama unfolds through a series of characters who tell their stories of life in the middle ages. These include the baker, the herbalist, the Reeve, the landless labourer, the medicus and the Lord of the Manor. The actors are all experts in medieval history and a living medieval village is used as the set. The following aspects of medieval life are covered: a peasants life, the feudal system, medieval farming - including division of land & crop rotation, food & drink, the medieval home, clothes, medieval women, death, disease & justice. www.classroomvideo.co.uk
Description: Cohn, Samuel Kline. The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe. London: Arnold, 2002. Print.