U12Notes - Unit 12 Great Plague Last week when we discussed...

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Unit 12 Great Plague Last week when we discussed the consequences of the crusades, we talked about the increase in trade and commerce between Europe and the rest of the known world This is one of the causes of the Great Plague because historians believe the Great Plague originated in central Asia and spread to Europe via merchant ships We have evidence that the plague hit China in about 1331. China was decimated by the Plague even more so than Europe. Estimates are that it killed 1/2 of China’s population But 1346, the plague reached the Black Sea, by 1347 Constantinople. From there it was carried to Italy aboard trading ships, reaching Italy in 1348. In fact, as a fleet of Italian trading ships entered Italy and it became clear that the crew was infected with the plague, the people who controlled the ports tried to turn them back, but it was too late From there it spread across Europe, even all the way to England and Ireland The great plague was the greatest natural disaster to affect Europe. It would come and stay for a few years, then leave, then come back again The plague did not discriminate – all ages, all classes, villages and towns were subject to its effects. The sons and daughters of kings, archbishops and cardinals were killed There were two types of plague, the bubonic and the pneumonic. Plague victims suffered an agonizing death. The first sign was an egg shaped boil on your neck or inner thigh. The boils would burst and blood and puss would flow out, releasing a terrible stench The victim was in severe pain and usually died within several days of catching it Once you caught the plague, you were completely abandoned and left to die in solitude. Brother abandoned brother, mother abandoned child People were buried in mass graves because gravediggers could not keep up. Sometimes corpses would lie in the streets for days There were people who take advantage of this crisis. Robbers broke into the homes of those who had just contracted the plague. Law enforcement was helpless By 1350, almost all of Europe was engulfed by the plague, including England and Ireland. The plague killed between 1/3 and one-half of citizens in Paris, London and Normandy People tried to fight back against the plague, but since medical knowledge was scant, they had to rely on religious means Some people believed God was punishing them 1
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Astrology was an accepted science in the 14 th century – some doctors believed it was caused by a unique alignment of the planets. Other doctors believed eating the right combination of foods could cure the plague Large processions would march through the streets of towns and cities – together, these people would pray to God and the saints Others would beat themselves, believing that their sufferings would atone for the sins that caused the plague. They would travel from town to town in packs of several hundreds, singing Christian songs and whipping themselves with leather whips Some towns banned drinking, swearing and gambling as a way to appease God
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This note was uploaded on 11/17/2010 for the course HIST 1 taught by Professor Byrne during the Spring '07 term at Santa Monica.

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U12Notes - Unit 12 Great Plague Last week when we discussed...

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