BlackDeath - The Political and Social Consequences of the...

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The Political and Social Consequences of the Black Death, 1348 – 1351 By Walter S. Zapotoczny The Black Death was one of the worst natural disasters in history. It swept over Europe and Asia and ravaged cities causing widespread hysteria and death. The Black Death, also known as the Black Plague, was a devastating pandemic that struck Europe in the mid-14th century. Plague epidemics also occurred in large portions of Asia and the Middle East during the same period, which indicates this outbreak was actually a world wide pandemic. The initial 14th century European event was called the "Great Mortality" by contemporary writers, and with later outbreaks, became known as the Black Death. The name comes from a symptom of the disease, called acral necrosis , in which sufferers' skin would blacken due to subdermal hemorrhages. Historical records attribute the Black Death to an outbreak of bubonic plague, an epidemic of the bacterium Yersinia pestis spread by fleas with the help of animals like the black rat. The result of the plague was not just a massive decline in population. It irrevocably changed Europe's social and economic structure and was a disastrous blow to Europe's predominant organized religion, the Roman Catholic Church. It caused widespread persecutions of minorities like Jews and lepers, and created a general morbid mood, which influenced people to live for the moment, unsure of their daily survival. The Black Death had many long-term consequences. One was a series of vicious attacks on Jews, lepers, and outsiders who were accused of deliberately poisoning the water or the air. Lepers were singled out and persecuted. Anyone with a skin disease such as acne or psoriasis was thought to be a leper, and leprosy was believed to be an outward sign of an inner defect of the soul. They were, for the most part, exterminated throughout Europe.The attacks against Jews began in the south of France, but were most dramatic in parts of Switzerland and German areas with a long history of attacks on local Jewish communities. Massacres in Bern, Switzerland were typical of this pattern; after weeks of fearful tension, Jews were rounded up and burned or drowned in marshes. Sometimes there were attacks on Jews even where there was no plague. This persecution was often done, not solely out of religious hatred, but as a way of attacking the Kings or the Church who normally protected the Jews. Jews were often called the King's property and it was a way for people to lash out at the institutions who they believe had failed them. Fewer Jews died from the Black Death, in part due to rabbinical law which called for a lifestyle that was, in general, cleaner than that of a medieval villager. Also, Jewish ghettos kept them more separate from the general population. This made Jews looked
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This note was uploaded on 02/02/2012 for the course ECON 2410 taught by Professor Prescott during the Fall '11 term at University of Guelph.

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BlackDeath - The Political and Social Consequences of the...

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