The Bubonic Plague Stikes

November 1, 1347


During the 1300's an epidemic struck parts of Asia, Europe and North Africa. About one-third of the European population had died because a disease called the Bubonic Plague, or also know as the Black death because of the purplish or blackish spots produced on the skin. The Bubonic Plague has so devastating that it torn communities apart. "This scourge had implanted so great a terror in the hearts of men and women that brothers abandoned brothers, uncles their nephews, sisters their brothers, and in many cases wives deserted their husbands. But even worse, . . . fathers and mothers refused to nurse and assist their own children," said Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer during the plague.

Origins and Impact of the Plague

The origin of the plague started in Asia, and trough trading routes, the disease spread through parts of Asia, the Muslim world and Europe. In 1347, a fleet of Genoese merchant ships arrived in Sicily carrying the plague. The plague went through Italy and from there it through trades routes to Spain, England, Germany, France and other places in Europe and North Africa. It took 4 years for the plague to spread through out Europe. Some lucky communities didn't get infected at all, while the ones that did got two-thirds to three-quarters of the population died. The plague struck back every few years but not as severely as the first time.

Bubonic Plague

The Black Death was a killer disease that swept repeatedly through many parts of the world. It wiped out two-thirds of China's population, destroyed many Muslim towns in Southwest Asia and destroy one-third of Europe's population.

The terrifying disease spread by black rats with flies that had been infested with a bacillus called Yersinia pestis. And because people did not take baths, most likely had flies and lice. Also, sine medieval had not sewage or places for trash, they threw it on the streets which made it more suitable for the rats to breed. The fleas on the rats would jump person to person causing the disease to spread.

Some of the symptoms of the Black Death were:

  • Painful swellings called buboes in the lymph nodes, particularly those in the armpits and groin
  • Sometimes purplish or blackish spots on the skin
  • Extremely high fever, chills, delirium, and in most cases, death
Death Tolls in 1300's caused by the plague were about 20 million to 25 million in Western Europe and about 25 million in China, India and Asian parts.
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Effects of the Plague

The economic and social effect of the plague were huge. The old manorial system began to fall apart. Some of the changes that occur were:

  • Town populations fell.
  • Trade declined. Prices rose.
  • The serfs left the manor in search of better wages.
  • Nobles fiercely resisted peasant demands for higher wages, causing peasant revolts in England, France, Italy, and Belgium.
  • Jews were blamed for bringing on the plague. All over Europe, Jews were driven from their homes or, worse, massacred.
  • The Church suffered a loss of prestige when its prayers failed to stop the onslaught of the bubonic plague and priests abandoned their duties.