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The Black Death

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  1. The Black Death 1347 and on - - -

  2. The Black Death - Structure • Introduction • Forms of Disease and Transmission • Path of the Plague • Recurrences • Efforts to stop the Plague • Quotes on the Black Death • Consequences: Economic Social and Psychological Religious Music and Art

  3. Introduction • Epidemic Disease • Divider betw. Central and late Middle Ages Illustration From the Toggenburg Bible, 1411

  4. 3 Forms of the Disease • Bubonic Plague. painful lymph node swellings, buboes • Septicemic Plague. also called “blood poisoning”, attacked the blood system • Pneumonic Plague. attacked the respiratory system

  5. The Bubonic Plague • Painful lymph node swelling, called buboes • In groins and armpits • Oozing pus and blood • Damage to the skin and underlying tissue • Dark blotches = acral necrosis  Black Death!

  6. The Bubonic Plague A plague victim reveals the telltale buboe on his leg. From a 14th Century illumination.

  7. Symptoms of the bubonic Plague • Swellings “egg  apple” • Fever of 101-105 degrees F • Headaches and Aching joints • Nausea and vomiting (of blood) • General feeling of malaise • Swellings expanding until they burst  death following soon after • Whole process: 3-5 days • NB: People who didn’t develop swellings invariably died. People with swellings might have a chance. • Mortality Rate: 30-75 % • If 40% of population was getting infected, and 80% of them died = mortality rate of 32%

  8. The Pneumonic Plague • Second most commonly seen form of the Black Death

  9. The Pneumonic Plague • Infected the lungs. • Symptoms: • Slimy sputum tinted with blood (Sputum = saliva mixed with mucus excreted from the respiratory system) • Sputum became free flowing • 1-7 days for symptoms to appear • Mortality Rate: 90-95%

  10. The Pneumonic Plague • Airborne transmission – added to its danger! • Through bacteria in droplets of saliva coughed up by sick persons • Inhaled by bystanders • New infection starts directly in the lungs or throat.

  11. The Septicemic Plague • Attacked the blood system (Blood Poisoning) • Fevers • Skin turns deep shades of purple due to DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation)

  12. The Septicemic Plague • In its most deadly form, DIC causes a victim’s skin to turn dark purple, almost black = The Black Death. • Victims died the same day symptoms appeared. Mortality Rate: close to 100%. No treatment even today

  13. Transmission of the Bubonic and Septicemic Plague • Direct contact with a Flea • The Bacteria (Yersinia pestis) carried by rodents • Fleas infest animals, primarily rats • Then move to human hosts • The oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis

  14. The Rat Flea • The flea drinks rat’s blood • The bacteria multiplies inside the flea • The flea’s stomach is blocked • The flea is very hungry • The flea voraciously bites a host = a human • The flea is unable to satisfy its hunger • The flea continues to feed • Infected blood carrying the plague bacteria is flowing into the human’s wound • The rat dies • The flea dies of starvation • The human dies

  15. The Path of the Plague • Erupted in Gobi Desert, late 1320’s • Epidemic in Europe in 6th century but dormant since then • Reached the shores of Italy in 1348 • Spread in every direction, primarily westward • Lasted 3 years

  16. The Path of the Plague • Traveled on trade routes and caravans • Generally from south to north • And east to west • Passing through • Italy • France • England • Germany • Denmark • Sweden • Poland • Finland • Greenland

  17. Preexisting Conditions • War – Civil War in China 1205-1353 • Little Ice Age at beg. Of 13th century • The Great Famine 1315-1322 in Northern Europe • Typhoid Epidemic • Pestilence, maybe anthrax, hit the animals of Europe in 1318 • Unemployment, famine, disease

  18. The Path of the Plague • The progress of the plague coincides with the medieval trade routes • Iceland, North Finland, and North Sweden had no plague • Norway 1348 (Oslo, Bergen) • Denmark 1348, from Jutland to the islands, and then on to Sweden

  19. Recurrences • Every 5-7 years • Next plague: 1360 = The Pest of the Children • Italian Plague 1629-1631 • Great Plague of Vienna in 1679 • Great Plague of London 1665-1666 – one of the last major outbreaks • Resembles modern day Ebola

  20. Efforts to Stop the Plague • Cities were hardest hit • Isolation – healthy and sick • Quarantine • Isolation of incoming ships • Here: a reproduction of a peasant’s hovel

  21. Efforts to stop the Plague • Scents - incense and aromatic oils • Sound – church bells • Sound – cannons • Talismans • Here: burial in coffins

  22. Efforts to stop the Plague • Quarantine was the best method • Avoiding the sick • The wealthy fled to the countryside (Isaac Newton) • Pope Clement VI in Avignon sat between two large fires to breathe pure air. The plague bacillus is destroyed by heat, so this worked!

  23. The Flagellants • Flagellants – • self-flogging to atone for sins. • Popular after disillusionment with the church’s reaction to the Black Death • Outside the Church

  24. The Flagellants • Christians - and an angry Deity. • Bands wandering through towns and countryside • Public penance. Inflicted all kinds of punishment upon themselves • Sacrifice for the sins of the world – like Jesus

  25. The Flagellants • Society disapproved • Tendency to kill Jews and clergymen who opposed them • Condemned by the Pope in 1349 • Reappeared in times of plague into the 15th century

  26. Quotes on the Black Death • Boccacio: The victims “ate lunch with their friend and dinner with their ancestors in paradise” • Samuel Pepys: “Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them the people quickly drove the Italians from their city… Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick…Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial.”

  27. Consequences for Populations • Approx. 25 million deaths in Europe • Between one third and one half of European population died 1348-1350 • 25% of villages depopulated • 45-75% of Florence died in one year • In Venice, 60% died over 18 months

  28. Consequences for Population • Urban populations recovered quickly • Rural populations recovered slowly • Friars took a couple of generations to recover • Pre-plague population reached in the 1500s or 1600s • Later period of Middle Ages was characterized by chronically reduced population

  29. Consequences for Population • 1348: • Gaza: 10.000 dead • Aleppo: 500 dead per day • Damascus: 1000 dead per day • Syria: total of 400.000 dead • Lower mortality rate in the Middle East of less than one third of population

  30. Economic Consequences • Shortage of laborers rising wages for peasants and artisans • Valuable artisan skills disappeared • Oversupply of goods  prices dropped • For the living, standard of living rose! • Landlords stopped freeing their serfs serfs revolting and leaving the land • The oppressed demanded fairer treatment

  31. Economic Consequences • The great equalizer • Lack of sufficient law enforcement personnel • Promoted lawlessness • People tried their luck

  32. Religious Consequences • Persecutions of the Jews – scapegoats • Massacres and burnings • By 1351, 60 major and 150 smaller Jewish communities had been exterminated • Lepers were also targeted • Jews expelled, moved to Poland & Lithuania

  33. Church lost prestige, spiritual authority, leadership Promised cures, treatment, and explanations No answers to the people Revolt against the church Severe shortage of clergy – functioned as nurses and consequently died. The church targeted the Jews for persecution – had killed Jesus and brought sin to the world Religious Consequences

  34. Music and Art • Culture turned morbid • Sense of death – impending & inevitable • Death is a game, like chess! • Dance of death – death is random • Everyone suffered • Despair

  35. Music and Art • Danse Macabre = the dance of death: skeletons mingling with the living (here: Hans Holbein the Younger) • Shocking juxtapositions • Written language almost lost • Coffins had pictures of corpses on the lid • New creativity in motives

  36. The Children Ring a-round the rosy = rosary beads give you God’s help Pocket full of posies = used to stop the odor of rotting bodies through to cause the plague Ashes, ashes! = the church burned the dead when burying became too laborious We all fall down! = dead • Children suffered mentally and physically • Children were not thought worth the trouble to raise!

  37. And Now? • The bubonic Plague still exists • Quite common among rodent populations • A cure is known today – but the disease moves very quickly • The Plague is still with us Hythe Ossuary, remains of victims of the Black Death