WEEK-7-VIDEO NOTES.docx - Late middle Ages The Black...

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Late middle Ages The Black Death… was the greatest biomedical disaster in European and possibly in world history. Its significance was immediately perceived by the wise Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, writing a few years later: ‘Civilization both in East and West was visited by a destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good things of civilization and wiped them out in the entire inhabited world.” A contemporary Florentine writer referred to “the exterminating of humanity.’” Your textbook mentions some of the important conditions and causes of the massive epidemic known as the Black Death. The mid-fourteenth century marked the beginning of a shift in climate known as the Little Ice Age. This was a period when temperatures cooled considerably resulting in longer, colder winters and shorter summers. The agricultural cycle was thrown off resulting in poor harvests. When this condition was combined with pre-existing overpopulation, famine conditions resulted. People were undernourished and thus more susceptible to disease. You have already read some about the symptoms of the plague and how it affected people. Epidemiologists and medical historians have studied the sources concerning the plague and have concluded that there may have been at least two different diseases running parallel through the population. Of course, one was bubonic plague. And some have suggested that the other may have been anthrax. In any case, we know that about one-third of the population of Western Europe died. Of course, this is an average. In some areas as many as half of the people were victims. In some instances entire abbeys or villages were wiped out. Think about what life would be like if we suddenly lost one-third of the population. How do you think people today would react? In the Late Middle Ages, people reacted in a variety of ways. Some sought popular remedies like aromatic amulets to counteract the corruption in the atmosphere. Medical professionals had no explanation for the disease and no treatment. Some reacted in extremes: from extreme debauchery to extreme religious expressions Overall there was a pervasive pessimism, a preoccupation with death, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. As one historian says: “To the people of the time, the Black Death was a catastrophe with no apparent explanation and against which there was no known defense.” There is no doubt that this was a pivotal event in European history. Next we will summarize some aspects of its impact. Obviously, there was a drastic decline in population. Remember that outbreaks of the plague were repeated over the remainder of the 14th century. Population would not begin to rise again for another one hundred years after that.

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