The Black Death in Medieval Europe
The Bubonic Plague, more commonly referred to as the "Black Death," ravaged Europe between the years 1347 and 1350 (Herzog, 2000). During this short period, according to Herzog (2000), 25 million people (which were about one third of Europe's population at the time) were killed. In another article, Herlihy (1997), however, claimed that two thirds of Europe’s population were killed. Nevertheless, it is ascertained that thousands of people died each week and dead bodies littered the streets. Once a family member had contracted the disease, the entire household was doomed to die. Parents abandoned their children, and parent-less children roamed the streets in search for food. Victims, delirious with pain, often lost their sanity. Life was in total chaos. According to many historians, the Plague was a disaster without a parallel, causing dramatic changes in medieval Europe.
In lieu of this, it is interesting to study how the bubonic plague wiped out a considerable number of people from the population of medieval Europe. It is also interesting to learn what caused the outbreak of the plague. However, discussing all of these would be lengthy and some important points might be overlooked. This paper will only present the effects of the Black Death in medieval Europe based from history books and information from the World Wide Web. Specifically, this paper will attempt to look into the changes wrought by the Black Death in medieval Europe. Other topics related to the Black Death will be discussed briefly.
According to Nelson, the Black Death seems to have arisen somewhere in Asia and was brought to Europe from the Genoese trading station of Kaffa in the Black Sea (1995). Nelson (1995) believed that the story goes that the Mongols were besieging Kaffa when a sickness broke out among their forces and compelled them to abandon the siege. As a parting shot, “the Mongol commander loaded a few of the plague victims onto his catapults and hurled them into the town” (Nelson, 1995, par. 13). Some of the merchants according to Nelson (1995) “…left Kaffa for Constantinople as soon as the Mongols had departed, and they carried the plague with them” (par. 13). It spread from Constantinople along the trade routes, causing tremendous mortality along the way (Nelson, 1995).
How the disease was transmitted was further looked on by Nelson (1995). According to the said author, the disease was transmitted primarily by fleas and rats. The stomachs of the fleas were infected with bacteria known Y. Pestis. Nelson held that “the bacteria would block the "throat" of infected fleas so that no blood could reach their stomachs, and they grew ravenous since they were starving to death” (1995, par. 14). The bacteria would then attempt to suck up blood from their victims, only to disgorge it back into their preys' bloodstreams (Nelson, 1995). Now, however, the victims' blood was mixed with Y. Pestis. Fleas infected rats...