The Black Death is known as one of the most horrible and destructive pandemics that hit the medieval world. It surfaced in Europe in the fourteenth century at around 1347 to 1350. It originated from Asia, where there are many rodents, especially rats, which carried the plague bacillus. When the disease hit Western Europe, about 20 million individuals died, which was a third of its inhabitants. It started in the North of Italy in 1346 and got to England in 1347 via its port that was in Bristol (Cantor 2011). Fleas were the carriers of the plague, but the fleas were carried by the black rats. With the decreased population of rats, fleas migrated to human beings and caused the Black Death.
Europe had a stable population before the Black Death that was in the 13th century. It attained its peak in the 14th century between 1250 and 1350. The population had grown from 1.5 million in 1086 to around 5 million in 1300 (Cantor 2004). The doctors did not know the cause of the disease and the methods that could be used to cure it. In fact, people had various factors that they thought caused the disease, including withes, the Jews, and bad air.
The Black Death caused great horror and fear around the world. The author’s purpose was to give a detailed description of the epidemic that hit Europe. He did this by writing the book in a chronological order giving various dates and events that took place during the Black Death. He also wanted to tell about the impacts of the plague as well as how Europe and the world were able to come out of it.
The plague was caused by fleas that had six days to incubate. After the six days, the victim developed a black swelling on the skin where the flea bit. The infection was in the lymph bulges in the groins, under the arms, and neckline or near waistlines. The victim also had bad smelling with black blood that was thick. Black Death’s symptoms were very terrible and started provided one was infected.
The other symptoms were delirium, mental disorder, muscular pains, high fever, bleeding lungs, and vomiting. The victim also had a strong desire to sleep, but if they slept, the results were fatal. Besides, the victims only lived for about 2 – 4 days. The disease killed its victim very quickly. However, the main cause of death from the plague was blood poisoning from bacteria that congested the bloodstream.
Reported cases showed a high mortality rate ranging from 30 -45% in congested areas. The event occurred in Bristol and London. These towns had bad filthy living conditions with litter everywhere in the city. In most cases, litter is the rat’s breeding grounds. In some villages, the rate was around 80 -90%. The death toll in England was at 40% of its population. That percentage was almost 125 million people. The plague decreased the population leading to land and food being cheap for the poor peasants. The total income of farmers also increased with time.
A hierarchical society existed in this era. The groups had individuals that lived in dissimilar ways, and each category had its lifestyle. The aristocracy included very rich people with high incomes. The individuals had many lands where other unfortunate farmers worked for them. Although they had a high life, such individuals were often involved in many wars. Wealth was the determinant of your royalty, and the royalty spoke a language that was unknown to the commoners (Cantor 54).
The thirteenth century was a period of economic growth for England. England was totally doing agriculture that fed its population and was the only source of wool for export. They developed many towns leading to the development of its infrastructure. Mining was also on the rise, adding to the successful economy. In the 14th century, the economy started declining due to the increased population. The Black Death led to a loss in the agricultural sector.
The economy continued to decline. England was unable to import grain from France due to reduced labor and prohibitions. The diseases led to hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. The peasants were able to earn more based on the increased demand for labor. The middle-class individuals were now in a position to buy land. England’s wealth was mostly on its land, accounting for almost 90%. The royal family owned 40% of the land, while 30% was for the royal official. The middle-class owned the other 30%, while only 2% was for the peasants (Cantor 145).
Europe was very successful before 1300. They had no problems with infectious disease, given that the weather was warmer (around 1 – 2 degrees). The country also had good harvests. Economically, the agricultural sector dropped leading to Europe’s loss of wealth. There was an increase in salaries due to augmented deaths and high demand for workers. The peasants were able to improve their lives. There was a 40% decline in the population.
The book gives a detailed description of the plague, just as it was the author’s purpose from the beginning. He talks about everything, including the marriages and property issues and the impacts of the plague. When you read the book, one gets a clear picture of what happened during that time.
Cantor, Norman. In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2002. Print.