The Black Death was a plague that spread through Europe from 1348-1351, killing anywhere from 25-66% of the European population. This is approximately 75-200 million deaths resulting from the Black Death plague.
What Was the Black Death?
The Black Death plague was one of the most devastating pandemics to have ever struck the human population. The plague originated from Yunnan, a province in Southwest China. From there the Black Death spread either on the Silk Road network or through naval trade.
The disease was spread via rat fleas. The Yersina pestis bacteria started out in the digestive tracts of small rodents and was harmless. Feas that would bite the rodent host would get infected with the bacteria. From there the infected blood pretty much fermented inside the guts of fleas.
The next time an infected flea bit a human, the Y. pestis bacteria would be regurgitated into the bite wound. The bacteria would spread to the lymph nodes and begin to multiply inside the human host causing awful boboes to form…
The Black Death wreaked havoc across Europe because of its aggressive nature and the absence of medicine that could combat it. During the plague the disease was actually called â??the Great Mortalityâ? or â??the Pestilenceâ?. People in England may have called it the Black Death because of the black spots produced on the skin, but other than that itâ??s believed that â??Black Deathâ? is a fairly new term.
Cultural Effect on Europeans
Many odd things arose from the Black Death. Some might even surprise you.
The Flagellants believe that the Black Death was godâ??s way of punishing the sinners. So they felt that if they publically inflicted a similar punishment on themselves, that it would make God happy and he would stop the Black Death. It was the idea that if they punished themselves enough that God would feel that the humans were good once again and they had paid for their sins.
The Flagellants would pass through towns and villages flogging themselves to the point of broken skin and flowing blood. It was common for villagers to line up and watch these people beat themselves, it was even believed that the blood of the people sacrificing themselves would save the others. They believed that the scarified blood would prevent them from being infected with the plague. Surprise, surprise, the watchers would often rub blood from the Flagellants onto themselves in hopes of being safe from the plague. What else could we expect from medieval villagers? It was also common for the Flagellants to splash the blood from their whips into the crowds. You can imagine how much this helped the infection spreadâ?¦
Ring Around the Rosy
This nursery rhyme came from the Black Death itself. Hereâ??s what it really means.
â??Ring around the Rosieâ? â??this refers to the red marks that would appear on bodies as the first sign of the plague
â??A pocket full of posiesâ? â??herbs thought to protect you from becoming infected.
â??Ashes! Ashes!â? â??a reference to the cremation of Black Death victims, or a reference to sneezing which was another sign of the plague. Some versions replace this line as â??Atischoo, atischooâ?, the sound of sneezing.
â??We all fall down.â? â??the plague had no cure and killed anyone and everyone
Thereâ??s no way to prove this popular interpretation and some even argue that this rhyme was not inspired by the Black Death. Of course weâ??ll never know but it sure makes it more interesting this way!
Other Facts about the Black Death
Widespread quarantines started taking place during the Black Death. If you started showing symptoms of the plague your house door would be painted with a cross and you would be locked inside for 40 days. You can imagine after 40 days no one would actually be emerging from the homes aliveâ?¦
The Black Death also increased resistance to viruses. In fact a very small percentage of Caucasian people are immune to HIV. Itâ??s believed that either smallpox or the Black Death caused certain mutation to take place that makes some of us immune to HIV. Itâ??s unknown how many people are immune to HIV but the number is under 1% of Caucasians.
Article written by Octavian Ristea.