AN03e4_Ch.14-Formation of Western Europe: The Black Plague
Timeline: 12th – 16th C.
FQ: To what extent did pre-existing conditions (14th C. Europe) impact the spread and severity of The Plague?
Main Idea: In the 1300s, Europe was torn apart by several events. Among these was bubonic plague. Like modern diseases, Bubonic Plague originated and thrived under the economic, social, and environmental conditions prevailing at the time. These included poverty, increased communication with other regions, poor sanitation, lack of knowledge (& tradition) regarding hygiene, and climatic change.
I. Vocabulary and Background Facts (Refer to Crossword Puzzle)
A. Black Death: Refers to the color of the buboes that grew on the bodies of many plague victims (neck, groin, armpits=\> areas near glands). Causes, as believed by many of that time, involved Humors and Miasmas.
B. Mortality: Death, in the worst case, can occur within 24hrs from onset of visible symptoms. From 1347 – 1351, 33% of Europe ’s population dies (~25 million). The mortality rate, which is different from the percentage of deaths, would be higher since not everyone contracted the disease. Some showed signs of contracting the illness, but would later survive without further ill effects.
C. Transmission: Vectors (carriers) were predominantly fleas and rats. Humans can also be considered a vector since they could transport fleas on their bodies and rats in the hulls of trade vessels.
D. Heretics: Members of the Christian community who challenge and/ or modify Church teaching. They do not practice the faith in accord with Church teachings. (eg. Flagellant Movement)
II. Pre-existing Conditions in Europe (leading to 14th C.)
A. Rising Population (Agricultural Advances- refer to earlier lesson)
B. Exponential Population Growth
1. Clearing of forest lands for cultivation.
2. Depletion of soil
3. High Population Densities
C. Mini-Ice Age
1. Wetter in Summer: Flooding. Crops don’t ripen.
2. Colder in Winter: Glacial Expansion. Growing seasons are shortened.
3. The 13th and 14th centuries witnessed an average drop in temperature ~3º in Asia and then Europe. This had become a ‘mini’ ice-age. (We will revisit this climatic change in a future lesson focusing on Mongol expansion.)
D. Poor Sanitary Conditions
This involved everything from lack of sewer systems to cultural traditions impacting on personal hygiene. It should be noted here that one of the greatest advances in the fight against illness was the development of public sanitation policies. The physical well-being of urban populations was closely tied to the quality of sanitation. (View the logo for NYC Sanitation Dept.)
E. Mongols as Carriers
Prof. Morris Rossabi [Columbia Univ., 28 Sept. ’00] doesn’t see any connection between Mongol expansion and the spread of plague. He attributes this belief to scholars who focus on Ming dynastic accounts. These accounts would be constructed to reflect loss of the Mandate of Heaven by the Yuan (Mongol) emperor’s.
III. CASE STUDY: Barcelona , Spain (See map in presentation)
A. 1333 – Famine
B. 1347 – 1351 Plague
C. 1358 – 1359 Famine
D. 1362 – 1363 Plague
– Is there any possible explanation for the alternating of famine and plague?
– Since Barcelona is a large town, how does population density affect this alternating sequence?
– How do you explain the gaps (measured in years) between each outbreak of famine and plague?
IV. Summary Activity: Why it matters now.
Events of the 1300s led to a change in attitudes toward religion and the state. Such changes will come to impact the Renaissance.
– World History: Patterns of Interaction
– Slide Presentation
– Secrets of the Dead: Mystery of The Black Death (Part I, II, III, IV)
– CNN’s Millennium Series- The Plague & The Century of Scythe
– Sources of Western Tradition: Fourteenth Century Pestilence by Friar Jean Venette
– Lecture by Prof. Morris Rossabi, Columbia Univ. 28 Sept. ’00 (Stuyvesant H.S.)/ Author of Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times