Middle Ages' Most Notorious Killer:
The Black Death
This paper analyzes the documentary film "Secrets of the dead-Mystery of the Black Death". This film discusses about the Black Death, a disease resulting from a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plague, which killed millions of Europeans during the Middle Ages. Researchers in this video clarify the origins of this pandemic/how it spread, the damage it caused on the whole European continent, the theory explaining how some people managed to escape the Black Death and the relationship between the disease and today's most dangerous virus: the HIV. The team of experts in this film is composed of historians, geneticists, a microbiologist, a virologist and even a gastroenterologist. Thus, the combination of historical and scientific knowledge will answer the questions about the past that people have always asked. Primary sources
First of all, many primary sources were used in this film to analyze the subject of Black Death. The experts had access to the written files in the London Archives, such as the burial records and plague register of the period where the disease appeared. The first type of primary source used was the burial records. Another type of written document (handwritten volume, also known as registers), is also considered as a useful primary source that helped the researchers get a clearer view of history. For example the parish and plague registers. The third type of primary source showed in this video was the oral stories/records, told by the direct descendents of Black Death's survivors. As a matter of fact, the plague register analyzed by the historian Justin Champion, indicated approximately the number of households who were affected by the plague, and the burial records indicated the number of people who died. Thus, if we correlate the findings of both primary sources, we will obviously have an idea of the numbers of survivors. The parish register( document from the Churches) was used with similar purpose as the burial records and plague register (archival files). The plague historian John Clifford was also interested in the number of people that survived the pandemic. He examined the parish register that started in 1630, and then he analyzed the parish register of 1725 and finally chose 433 survivors on that list that would be subjects of his researches. Oral records also helped shedding light on the past. Joan Plant, a descendent of the plague survivors, explained that many people survived the disease, for example her ancestor Margaret Blackwell. Thus, because of the stories brought by the descendents, experts and researchers became aware that surviving the plague is possible, and they could expand their researches to learn the factors that allowed the infected Europeans to survive. This video mentions about the case of Elisabeth Hancock, whose six children and husband all died because of the infection but she somehow managed to survive. The historians and researchers know about this story because of the oral records. However, there is not any source that clarifies why she was the only one alive, while the rest of her family members died. Consequently, if a resource was available explaining or providing information on how she managed to survive, the researchers would be come with more powerful findings and conclusions about the Black Death. Many of these sources suggested that there were survivors who managed to escape from the Black Death and some of them did not even get infected. Therefore, the survivors become the key study of this research. Many scientists, such as the geneticist Stephen J. O'Brien, rely on modern technology and knowledge to draw conclusions on their researches, after analyzing the primary sources. For example, O'Brien studied the genetic make-up of modern people from Eyam, through a process that could only be done using modern technologies (knowledge and equipments). He found many...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document