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The Black Death. And the Persistence of Plague. Overview. The Late Medieval Period: 1350-1500 Outbreak of Plague Its Characteristics Reactions Consequences. The Late Medieval Period. Sometimes depicted as a time of decay The end of medieval civilization?

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the black death

The Black Death

And the Persistence of Plague

  • The Late Medieval Period: 1350-1500
  • Outbreak of Plague
  • Its Characteristics
  • Reactions
  • Consequences
the late medieval period
The Late Medieval Period
  • Sometimes depicted as a time of decay
    • The end of medieval civilization?
    • Knights become less important in battle
  • Also a period enormous creativity and change
    • Inventions: printing press, cannons, clocks, navigation
    • Art & Architecture: the Italian Renaissance
  • Changing balance of social forces
    • Merchants increasingly powerful
    • Hereditary aristocracy challenged
    • Spread of patronage beyond courts
  • Monarchy remains the dominant form of political organization but republican ideals emerge in Italy
  • Origins of the Black Death
    • Worldwide pandemic in the 14th century
    • Started in China during 1330s
    • Spread to Crimean peninsula in the late 1340s
    • rats & fleas spread a deadly bacterium, Yrsenia Pestis
    • Crimean War a likely vector for transmission of the plague to Europe
    • onset in Genoa in 1347
    • Spreads to the rest of Europe by 1350
    • recent evidence suggest that other diseases, such as cattle and sheep murrain, accompanied bubonic plague
  • Plague continues to visit Europe periodically until 1723 but exercises little dramatic effect after 1450
  • Virtually absent in Europe since seventh century
  • Transmission
    • Bubonic – black rats and fleas
    • Pnuemonic - coughing
    • Septicemic – bodily fluids
  • Symptoms
    • Buboes near groin and armpits
    • Lingering sickness for several weeks
  • Modern treatment includes antibiotics
how does chaucer s poetry reflect the rise of the middle class
How does Chaucer’s poetry reflect the rise of the middle class?
  • It contains stories from several middle class characters
  • It subtly mocks chivalric ideals
  • It ridicules the prestige of the church authorities
  • It depicts a society that is relatively prosperous
how does the tone of the miller s tale differ from the tone of the knight s tale
How does the tone of the Miller’s Tale differ from the tone of the Knight’s Tale
  • The Knight was more inclined to be rude and disgusting
  • The Miller was more deferential in his tone
  • The Miller told a drunken story about adultery and included references to farting
  • The Knight told a classic Arthurian Romance
demographic consequences
Demographic Consequences
  • Demography is the key concept
    • population decline was dramatic: 40% of Europe dies within 5 years
    • Wustungen: entire villages left empty
    • Some cities, such as Florence, Italy, experienced mortality rates over 70%
    • Other areas were relatively unaffected
  • No big rebound as plague becomes endemic to Europe
    • The Gray Death in 1361
    • Plague in late 1360s, mid 1370s, etc…
    • Gradually fades out over hundreds of years
    • Last visitation of plague was in 1723 in Marseilles, France
socio economic consequences
Socio-Economic Consequences
  • Declining production in the short term
    • Short term price increase in grain (over in 5 years)
  • Rents fall and stay low for a century
  • Labor shortage: wages rise and remain high for decades
  • Luxury goods rise in price and remain high for decades
  • Gap between rich and poor narrows
  • 1350-1450: good years for skilled laborers
  • New agricultural strategies develop
    • Increasing pasturage
    • Enclosures begin in England and continue for 400 years
socio economic consequences1
Socio-Economic Consequences
  • Did the Black Death cause the end of serfdom?
  • Definition of Serfdom
    • Labor duties instead of rents
    • Manorial exactions: merchet, tallage, and heriot
    • Legal status based on land tenure
  • Arguments in favor of this assumption
    • Deserted villages
    • Demography favors laborers
  • Arguments against this assumption
    • Land/labor ratios
    • Conflicting evidence: Eastern vs. Western Europe
    • Increases in market economy and wage labor predated plague
    • Influence of urban economy
  • Neo serfdom: an anomalous trend from 1350-1400
  • Nevertheless, serfdom virtually disappears in western Europe by 1500
social responses to plague
Social Responses to Plague
  • Processions
    • Flagellants re-emerge after decades in remission
  • Explanations and Scapegoats
    • God sent it
    • Sin caused it
    • Antichrist would soon arrive
    • Jews poisoned wells
  • Deserted villages and manors
    • Encroaching forests
    • Rejuvenation of the soil
the dance of death or danse macabre
The Dance of Death or Danse Macabre
  • Literary and pictorial depictions of a procession that brings the richest to the poorest to their graves
  • A northern European phenomenon, the concept was in circulation over fifty years prior to the Black Death, but after 1350 depictions of it were more numerous
  • Emphasized the socially leveling aspects of death i.e. everyone dies but it also was an incitement to penance in preparation for imminent death
  • Its depiction lasted well into the Northern Renaissance of the 1500s
  • European population declined by 50% during the Fourteenth Century
    • famine hits first
    • war between England and France contributes to destruction of productive capacities of agriculture in France
    • plague hits late 1340s and every 5-10 years for the rest of the century
  • Apocalyptic & religious concerns rise
  • Amid chaos new economic opportunities develop
  • Social mobility increased
  • Although it probably accelerated the decline of serfdom, the demographic collapse of the fourteenth century did not destroy the foundations of high medieval culture
  • By increasing social mobility and heightening religious and apocalyptic fear, plague provided a catalyst for many of the social, economic, and cultural changes that characterized the turbulent early modern period from 1350-1800