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Black Death

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Black Death

Historically the Black Death, also referred to as the Bubonic plague, is disputably recognized as the most devastating disease to affect the human race. During the outbreak of the Black Death approximately 75 million people (nearly one third of Europe’s population at the time) were killed. The disease is said to have started somewhere in the Gobi desert during the late 1320s and spread at an obscene rate. The question remains: how did the Black Death spread so quickly? In the sixth century there had been an outbreak throughout Europe but had remained dormant until the 14th century, therefore it is unclear as to what caused the dramatic outbreak up to this point in history. During this time period climates began to rapidly change, whilst there was a smaller scale ice-age occurring during this time thus causing the temperature of the globe to decline significantly from previous years. Some argue that this decrease in temperature was the main cause of these events.

The Malthusian theory suggests that because of the population decline the demand for food declined as well, suggesting that the price of goods declined with it. However, labour costs and wages were on the rise suggesting that the economic prospects of Europe at the time should have been able to regenerate the population. People wed at earlier ages suggesting that fertility rates should have increased because of this change. This would provide the possibility of having larger numbers of children and thus the odds that more births would statistically result in a larger number of children surviving. Knowing this information, why was it so difficult for Europe to recover from these events (The Black Death)? One theory suggests that the plague had a psychological effect on the people of this time period by altering their attitudes towards marriage and childbirth. Thus, fusing these two ideas together had a negative impact on the birthrate. Although the plague was not the first disease to hit the human race, the recurrence of the plague scared people and gave the plague the ability to assist in keeping the population low. There was not enough time for the inhabitants to recover between each successive outbreak of the plague (The Black Death).

The main reason why the population failed to recover was the recurrence of plague throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. If the Black Death had been a 'one-off' event, the population would probably have been able to recover itself. It was the devastating effects of subsequent plagues, although never as severe as the 1348-1350 outbreaks, which put a brake on recovery. The pestis secunda in 1361 affected young people the most, particularly those born after the Black Death, which would have obvious repercussions on the population rates later. The pestis tertia arrived in 1369, killing about 13% of the gentry and clergy in England. (Gottfried pp131). Plague returned in 1379-1383, 1389-1393 and then fairly frequently during the entire 15th century. It had become endemic. (The Black Death)

It is believed that the plague started in Northern India before it continued to spread east and west though the rest of Asia and soon to Europe. It is not entirely clear how the Black Death spread so quickly; however, some say that the Mongol armies and traders had a large impact since they were taking advantage of the Silk Road. Originally, the plague was first exposed to Europe through Caffa, which was a trading city on the Black Sea and then continued its way to Sicily and the rest of the continent. It was originally believed that the Black Death was spread through rats and transmitted by fleas. When the flea bit the rat, it had a taste of the rat’s blood. Soon after, the flea would bite a human and spread the disease to people. The plague could stay in a rat’s body for up to six days and after that the rat would die. This also helped keep the disease alive for a longer period of time. Eventually, the blood in the flea’s body would congeal and the flea would die. Interestingly, the Black Death moved on to Greenland. It was said that rats were the ones to carry the disease; however, rats did not make it to this area of the globe until the 1800s. Rats were believed to be the original carrier of this horrible epidemic however; humans soon became the fastest way to spread the disease.

There were other factors which made the Black Death so successful in killing people such as war, famine and the change of climate during the time period. In 1352, the Chinese population formed a rebellion against the Mongols. Many of the Chinese inhabitants were fully involved by the year 1355. The Mongols were also fighting among themselves because they were concerned with their lack of ability to control the Chinese (Smitha 2000). One of their fighting mechanisms used were catapults. The Mongols made catapults big enough to launch human bodies. During the war that the Mongols had with

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