painting of the dead left outside the city walls
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he bubonic plague came in three pandemics throughout history. The Plague of Justinian in the 6th and 7th centuries is the first known attack on record. From historical descriptions, it’s known that as much as 40 percent of the population of Constantinople died from the plague. It killed up to 10,000 people a day. Modern estimates suggest half of Europe's population was wiped out before the plague disappeared in the 700s. The second and best known pandemic, Black Death, occurred in the 14th century. It reached Europe in 1337 and infected the entire continent by 1350. It killed nearly a third of the population. The Third Pandemic began in the 1850s. It hit China the hardest and devastated India but was confined to limited outbreaks in the west. The plague stills exists today, infecting over 2,000 people a year yet only killing about 200. The United States, China, India, Vietnam, and Mongolia are among the other countries that have confirmed human plague cases in recent years.over 2,000 people a year yet only killing about 200. The United States, China, India, Vietnam, and Mongolia are among the other estimates suggest half of Europe's population was wiped out before the plague disappeared in the 700s. The second and best known pandemic, Black Death, occurred in the 14th century. It reached Europe in 1337 and infected the entire continent by 1350. It killed nearly a third of the population. The Third Pandemic began in the 1850s. It hit China the hardest and devastated India but was confined to limited outbreaks in the west. The plague still exists today, infecting over 2,000 people a year yet only killing about 200. The United States, China, India, Vietnam, and Mongolia are among the other countries that have confirmed human plague cases in recent years.

painting of the Plague of Justinian
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n the early 1330s, the Black Death started to ravage China. It affected mostly rodents in its infancy. Their fleas transferred the disease to people, and once in the human population, it spread rapidly. The disease ran rampant, spreading along the Silk Road trade route. It made it to Europe with the Mongol attack on the city of Kaffa, Crimea. In the siege, the Mongols catapulted their dead over the city walls as a form of bioterrorism. 12 Genoese trading ships escaped the city and headed to Italy. They docked in Sicily at the port of Messina in 1347. The citizens noticed an extreme number of sick and dying sailors onboard. Not long after arrival, the Italians banished the ships back to the sea, but it was too late. The quick contact with others, and perhaps even some ship rats headed for land, was enough to cause the world’s greatest pandemic to hit Europe. The disease spread north and west over all of Europe, reaching its peak during 1348-1350. It covered all of Europe within 3 years. The plague died out and resurged in smaller epidemics for the next 500 years. The most notable epidemic in that time was The Great Plague of London. It lasted just one year but killed over 55,000 people in that time. The last pandemic occurred in China in the 1850s lasting for 40 years. Since then, a treatment has been developed which has kept epidemics on a smaller scale.Europe within 3 years.over 2,000 people a year yet only killing about 200. The United States, China, India, Vietnam, and Mongolia are among the other In the siege, the Mongols catapulted their dead over the city walls as a form of bioterrorism. 12 Genoese trading ships escaped the city and headed to Italy. They docked in Sicily at the port of Messina in 1347. The citizens noticed an extreme number of sick and dying sailors onboard. Not long after arrival, the Italians banished the ships back to the sea, but it was too late. The quick contact with others, and perhaps even some ship rats headed for land, was enough to cause the world’s greatest pandemic to hit Europe. The disease spread north and west over all of Europe, reaching its peak during 1348-1350. It covered all of Europe within 3 years. The plague died out and resurged in smaller epidemics for the next 500 years. The most notable epidemic in that time was The Great Plague of London. It lasted just one year but killed over 55,000 people in that time. The last pandemic occurred in China in the 1850s lasting for 40 years. Since then, a treatment has been developed which has kept epidemics on a smaller scale.

Spread

  1. 1334: Constantinople
  2. 1340: India
  3. Fall 1347: Alexandra, Cyprus, and Sicily
  4. 1347: Kaffa, Crimea
  5. Winter 1347: Italy
  6. 1348: Cyprus and Florence
  7. Jan 1348: France and Germany
  8. June 1348: Melcombe Regis and Weymouth, England
  9. Aug 1348: Bristol, England
  10. Sept 1348: London, England
  11. Oct 1348: Winchester
  12. 1349: Scotland
  13. Jan 1349: E. Anglia and the Midlands
  14. April 1349: Wales, England
  15. May 1349: Norway
  16. July 1349: Ireland
  17. Fall 1349: Durham, Scotland
  18. 1350: Baltic region
  19. Spring 1350: Scotland
  20. 1350: Eastern Europe
  21. 1351: Russia
map of the spread of the Black Death across Europe
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ersinia pestis is the bacteria known for causing the plague. It mostly exists in rat populations. When bitten by a flea, the insect drinks in contaminated blood and transfers it to the next host. Symptoms develop in less than a week and fatality happens anywhere from a day to a week later. The plague comes in three different forms: bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. Bubonic is the most common form, known for the presence of swollen lymph glands called buboes. Septicemic wrecks havoc on the blood stream by contaminating the blood to the point of poisoning a person to death. It was the least common but quickest killer. In some cases it caused death before the appearance of symptoms. Pneumonic develops from bubonic as it progresses to the lungs. It’s the most infectious kind and can only be spread by personal contact.

Bubonic

  1. Incubation Period:

  2. 2-6 days
  3. Fatality:

  4. 50%
  5. Symptoms:

  6. Lethargy
  7. Fever
  8. Chills
  9. Headache
  10. Buboes
  11. Gangrene
  12. Hemorrhaging

Septicemic

  1. Incubation Period:

  2. 1-6 days
  3. Fatality:

  4. 100%
  5. Symptoms:

  6. Lethargy
  7. Fever
  8. Shock
  9. Hypotension
  10. Hepatosplenomegaly
  11. Delirium
  12. Seizures in children

Pneumonic

  1. Incubation Period:

  2. 2-6 days
  3. Fatality:

  4. 50%
  5. Symptoms:

  6. Lethargy
  7. Fever
  8. Chills
  9. Shock
  10. Coughing
  11. Chest pains
  12. Dyspnea
  13. Hemoptysis
  14. Hypotension

Treatments

  1. Water and Vinegar:

    A sick person should be washed in vinegar and rose water and then put to bed.
  2. Lancing:

    The buboes should be cut open to let out the disease. Various mixtures can be put on the wounds to promote healing. Posibilities include: white lily roots, tree resin, dried excrement, warm butter, and garlic.
  3. Bloodletting:

    Bloodlet to allow the humors to rebalance. Either lance the veins or apply leeches.
  4. Diet:

    Do not each food that goes bad easily or smells such as meat, cheese, or fish. Instead eat bread, fruit, and vegetables.
  5. Sanitation:

    Human and animal waste along with the personal effects of the deceased should be carted out of the city and burned. All bodies should be buried in deep pits far from the city.
  6. Potion:

    To treat the sickness one should drink daily a potion of ground and roasted egg shells, chopped marigolds, treacle, and ale. Drink morning and night.
  7. Witchcraft:

    A live hen should be held next to the swollen buboe to draw out the pestilence.
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lague doctors were special medical physicians who were specifically hired by towns that had many plague victims in times of the epidemics. Since the city was paying their salary they treated everyone, the rich and the poor. They were not normally professionally trained or experienced physicians. They were often second-rate doctors not able to otherwise run a successful medical business or young physicians trying to establish themselves. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some doctors wore a beak-like mask, which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection. Because the Plague would attack a particular region, kill off everyone within it, and then move on to an adjacent region, the circulating and moving air was blamed for the deaths.second-rate doctors not able to otherwise run a successful medical business or young physicians trying to establish themselves. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some doctors wore a beak-like mask, which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection. Because the Plague would attack a particular region, kill off everyone within it, and then move on to an adjacent region, the circulating and moving air was blamed for the deaths.

Being a plague doctor was unpleasant, dangerous, and difficult. Their chances of survival in times of a plague epidemic were slim. Plague doctors practiced bloodletting and other remedies such as putting frogs on the buboes to "rebalance the humors" as a normal routine. The theory stated that within every individual there were four humors, or principal fluids - black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, these were produced by various organs in the body, and they had to be in balance for a person to remain healthy.

Plague doctors could not generally interact with the general public because of the nature of their business and the possibility of spreading the disease; they could also be subject to quarantine. When the Black Death spread through Italy in late 1347, some ports began turning away ships suspected of coming from infected areas. During March the following year, authorities in Venice became the first to formalize such protective actions against plague, closing the city’s waters to suspect vessels, and subjecting travellers and legitimate ships to 30 days’ isolation. This period was extended to 40 days some years later - hence the term quarantine.

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ictims of the plague would be sealed in their houses, locked and bolted from the outside. The victims were not allowed to leave and neither was anyone else allowed to enter. This action was tantamount to signing a death warrant for the whole family and one of the terrible consequences of the disease. Any victim of the Bubonic Plague or Black Death would have to obtain a 'Certificate of Health' to resume normal life - if they recovered. Watchmen were allocated to watch the 'plague houses'. The only means of sustenance was for the victims to lower baskets from an upper window for the watchman to put food into it. In later years houses containing victims were sometimes indicated with a red cross painted on the door with the words "God have Mercy". There was a time when the victims of the illness were not carried away to be buried or burnt so the red cross served as a warning.

For the dead, Plague Pits were rapidly dug. These pits were approximately 20 feet deep - the width of the pit would continue to be extended as the outbreak of the Bubonic plague spread. A consequence of continued outbreaks was that even old Plague Pits were re-opened. The and the death cart laborers were, not surprisingly, very well paid. Their jobs were clearly life-threatening. Month after month people were employed in this work, which became more and more difficult to accomplish as the plague spread and carried off more of the work force. When, despite the high wages, no new men for this job could be found, women and boys, especially those who had recovered from the Bubonic plague, were forced to carry out this work. Threats of imprisonment were made as encouragement to undertake these tasks.

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hen facing death, medieval society in 1348 looked to the Church, just as they did to medics, for rituals of comfort. The Church kept its distance, fearing contagion. Priests made burials hasty affairs. By law, no one other than immediate family could accompany the body to the cemetery and many city governments forbid the ringing of parish church bells, believing it would discourage the sick and dying multitudes. Overall, the 1348 plague revealed the Church’s human side and left such a traumatic impression on minds of the people. It deepened the issue of the Great Schism and influenced Martin Luther’s Reformation movement in the 1500’s.

During this time there was a religious group consisting of radicals in the Catholic Church called the Flagellants. The peak of their activity was during the Black Death. Spontaneously Flagellant groups arose across Northern and Central Europe. Many people believed that the Black Death was the result of God punishing them for their sins. The Flagellants believed that they could drive the devil away and wash away their sins by stripping naked and then whipping themselves. This, they believed, would relieve them of their sins, and thus prevent them from getting the plague.

Print of Catholic Flagellants letter P initial cap

eople starved in the aftermath of the pandemic. Fields went unploughed as the men who usually did this were victims of the disease. Animals were lost as the people in a village were not around to tend them. Therefore whole villages would have faced starvation. It caused inflation – the price of food went up creating more hardship for the poor. In some parts of England, food prices went up by as much as four times. How did peasants respond? Those who survived the Black Death believed that there was something special about them – almost as if God had protected them. Therefore, they took the opportunity offered by the disease to improve their lifestyle. Feudal law stated that peasants could only leave their village if they had their lord’s permission. Now many lords were short on desperately needed labor. Lords started actively encouraging peasants to leave the village where they lived to come to work for them. When peasants did this, the lord refused to return them to their original village. Because the lords were desperate, peasants knew they could demand higher.

skeleton

The government faced the prospect of peasants upsetting the whole idea of the Feudal System. Ironically, the lords who were meant to benefit from the Feudal System encouraged this. To curb peasants roaming around the countryside looking for better pay, the government introduced the Statute of Laborers in 1351 that stated: “No peasants could be paid more than the wages paid in 1346. No lord or master should offer more wages than paid in 1346. No peasants could leave the village they belonged to. “ Some peasants decided to ignore the statute, knowing that disobedience would lead to serious punishment. The law created great anger amongst the peasants, which was to boil over in 1381 with the Peasants Revolt.