The effects of the Black Death on Medieval Europe

Topics: Black Death, World population, Bubonic plague Pages: 6 (1708 words) Published: April 13, 2004
Medieval Europe was under an extreme burden at the turn of the century. The demographics of medieval Europe grew to an unprecedented scale. The population had grown to the brink of starvation. Only under the best conditions would the field's yield enough to feed the population. The Black death struck in 1347 and decimated the European population. The black death was a necessity to prevent overpopulation and economic decline.

The economy of the fourteenth century was in a state of decline. The population boom along with the shortage of food was leading Europe down a road to starvation. The climate in western Europe also was beginning to change at the turn of the fourteenth century. This caused a very wet climate and greatly adversely affected production. The climate change led to one of the worst famines in Europe's history. In 1315-1317, The Great Famine hit Europe with devastating consequences. The wet climate caused plants to decay before they were ready to be harvested causing extremely poor harvests. The great famine affected all of Europe unlike previous famines which were localized. The reality of this famine is that relatively few people died at first but they were weakened when all the food reserves gave out. People started to forage in the woods for food and they started to eat the seed used to plant grain because there was nothing else to eat. Due to the fact that most of the seed used for planting was eaten there was very little to plant causing the famine to escalate further. It was not until 1325 that Europe began to recover to pre-famine levels.

The population of the medieval world grew steadily after the decline of the roman empire.

In the 12th century the population grew in staggering leaps. The population boom caused Europe to reach the brink of its food supply levels. Improvements in agriculture helped increase the amount of food available but the food levels couldn't keep up with the population increase. During the Great famine there were many deaths but this still didn't curb population growth. Europe was looking forward to many more widespread famines unless the population declined rapidly.

The main outbreak of the Black Death lasted from 1347-1351 and was the worst plague in history at that point. "There was . . . a succession of epidemics in England, on a national scale from 1361 to some point in the fifteenth century; thereafter on a local scale, and restricted to the towns, and especially to the greater towns." New outbreaks also occurred in 1360,1368-70, 1375-1378, 1380-1383, and 1399-1400 in localized areas of Europe. The plague was brought to Europe by Genosean trading ships. In October of 1347, The ships unloaded their cargo at the Italian port of Messina. They also unloaded another very dangerous cargo as well, Rats infected with the bubonic plague. The plague spread through Europe like a wildfire decimating populations wherever it went. The plague spread into France by June of 1348 and reached the British Isles by 1349. The bubonic plague was spread by fleas that lived on rats. The bacterium responsible for the plague was Y. Pestis and it caused the worst population decrease in human history. "Impossible to avoid . . . Spread by breath, clothes, and dead corpses that were infectious for 24 hours." There were three types of the plague; bubonic, pneumonic, and septicaemic. The bubonic plague was caused by an infection of the lymph nodes and had a mortality rate of about 60%. "Bubonic plague with pneumonic complications which covered the victim in buboes . . . their limbs would blacken, his body would be shaken by convulsions, he would vomit blood and die without hope of recovery in three days." The pneumonic plague was caused by an infection of the respiratory system and was 100 percent fatal. Finally, The septicaemic plague was caused by an infection of the blood and was also 100 percent fatal.

The plague decimated more than a third of the total European population or more than...

Bibliography: 1. Fossier, Robert. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages 1250-1520. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
2. Oakley, Francis. The Medieval Experience. New York: Charles Scibner 's Sons, 1974.
3. Davis, William Stearn. Life on a Medieval Barony. New York: Harpert Brothers Publishers, 1923.
4. Kershaw, Ian. "The Great Famine and Agrarian Crisis in England 1315-1322." Past and Present, No. 59 (May, 1973): pp. 3-50
This article discusses what caused the food crisis in Europe before the Black Death struck
7. Robbins, Helen. "A Comparison of the effects of the Black Death on the Economic Organization of France and England." The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Aug., 1928): pp447-479.
8. Saltmarsh, John. "Plague and Economic Decline in England in the Later Middle Ages." Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1. (1941): pp. 23-41.
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