Effect Of The Black Death On Medieval Europe

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The black death significantly impacted Medieval Europe. The Black Death was a global epidemic of the bubonic plague which affected Europe between the years 1347 to 1353. The quick-killing plague originated somewhere in Asia in the 1320s. It came to Europe when a fleet of ships arrived in Messina, Sicily. over the short span of just 4 years, between 40 to 50 million Europeans died. The Black Death was a combination of the bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic plague. It affected many aspects of daily life in the Middle Ages. The foundations of feudalism crumbled, throwing Europe into chaos. Many people started questioning the Catholic church when it was unable to save them. The lack of medicine to cure the deadly plague eventually increased the number of successful treatments in Medieval Europe.

The Black Death triggered a series of events which started the gradual collapse of the feudal system. With such rapid death-rates, it became increasingly challenging to find skilled craftsmen and labourers. Knights and workers demanded higher wages for their services. Barons were willing to give extra benefits and pay higher wages for their productive work. However, some rulers were concerned by the demand for higher wages. In 1351, England made the Statute of Labourers. This law said that anyone under the age of sixty that was in good health must receive the same wages which they were paid in 1346. This law caused rage amongst the peasants that led to the Peasants’ revolt in 1381. A new middle class was created. This new class changed the structure of wealth and power in society. It broke the foundations of Feudalism, as shown in the following sentence. “As Europe evolved away from relying on land as the main source of prosperity, a rising middle-class claimed more and more wealth and prestige, as the once-noble began to quickly lose both” (Christina Vunguyen, 2011). 

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The Christian Church was unable to support the people of Europe which weakened belief in religion. The once-good reputation of religious leaders (dramatically) declined when they were unable to support their followers’ needs. Many priests stepped down from their roles to avoid catching the plague and dying. Members of the Church that did not desert their roles (to survive) instantly caught the disease from the people whom they attempted to help. The Church became richer because so many people begged the Church for their help that they started charging money for their so-called help. The Christian Church promised that they would find a cure but when they didn’t it weakened many peoples’ faith. The following statement demonstrates how Christians’ faith in the Church declined. “The fact that religious leaders were not able to limit the terrible effects of the plague, as well as the deaths of so many monks, nuns and priests, led to a lessening of many people’s faith in the Church” (TEXTBOOK). 

Failure in medicine to cure the plague led to many medical advances and improvements. When the black death struck Europe, most treatments were based on superstition and astrology. Some treatments that doctors used in an attempt to cure patients just made them sicker or, “often accelerated death and the spread of infection” (Daniel Rennie, 2019). Some so-called medicines used were pouring mercury over the victim’s body, sitting close to a sewer to drive out the fever and bloodletting. Bloodletting was a common treatment for most conditions. Doctors would purposely bleed a vein to drain ‘dirty’ blood. Doctors and scholars became more focused on learning more about medicine after nothing could cure the plague. With this new approach, doctors gained a much better understanding of the human body. Many new medical texts were created to document their new understandings about various illnesses. After the plague passed Europe, many villages created health boards to educate townspeople. The boards shared information about illnesses, medicine and hygiene. 


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