Imagine a time when dead bodies littered the streets everywhere, cattle and livestock roamed the country unattended, and brother deserted brother. (Disease and History npag.) When the horrific Black Death struck numerous towns, this situation prevailed. Historians around the world are continually wondering how this terrible Black Death occurred and what happened to the society and its people inflicted by the plague.
The Black Death was one of the worst natural disasters in history. In 1347 AD, this catastrophe swept over Europe and ravaged cities causing widespread hysteria and death. One third of the population died from the disease through transmission. There were four different means of transmission of infection. They were airborne, waterborne, direct contact, and vectors, which are insects that carry germs from one species to another. (Disease and History npag.) The main component of the Black Death was the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century, however people who lived through the tragedy called it the Great Dying or Pestilence. This Bubonic Plague swept through Europe, North Africa, and Asia, making it the most devastating epidemic in history.
Europe was struck by the plague in October of 1347, as it was brought into the port of Messina, Sicily by a fleet of Genoese trading ships. This fleet came from a seaport, Kaffa, on the Crimean peninsula in modern-day Ukraine when traders were fleeing an army of Tatar warriors who laid siege to the city. (The Black Death 18) Oriental rat fleas that were carried on the back of black rats transmitted the Bubonic disease. These fleas were blood-sucking parasites that spread diseases to humans. Once the fleas drank the rat blood that carried the bacteria, the bacteria multiplied in the flea’s gut. When the flea bit the human, it regurgitated the blood in the open wound, and the human became dangerously infected.
Once the bacteria from rats contaminated the fleas, everyone became vulnerable. During the siege, the horrifying sickness struck the Tatar soldiers, and countless people died, the remaining survivors found no time to bury them, causing the bodies to be stacked against city walls. Regardless of the continuous decrease, the traders left without knowing that the common black rat was the host animal for the plague-bearing fleas, and the infected rats left Kaffa on the Genoese ships. By the time they reached Messina, all of the crew was already dead or dying, and the rats slipped unnoticed to the shore, expanding the trouble to Messina. The plague spread further when people fled to other cities, however, if the plague had just stayed in one city, the containment might have spared Europe. (The Black Death 19)
There were three forms of plague. As previously discussed, the most common plague was the Bubonic Plague, and victims suffered painful lymph node swellings called buboes in the groin and armpits, which oozed pus and blood under the skin until the skin becomes covered with dark blotches. The second form of plague was the Pneumonic Plague, where the bacteria was airborne and first attacked the lungs. Finally, the Septicemic Plague caused death by blood poisoning. (Disease and History npag.) These three plagues were all horrible disasters in many ways.
The European economy was possibly hit the hardest by the plague’s aftermath. The major crisis was that important artisan skills disappeared when countless members of the working class died. Therefore, individuals who had expertise became more desirable than the upper class, giving the previously underprivileged laborers more value. In addition, this change showed the peasants and artisans that they deserved to be compensated, so they demanded higher wages. Serfs wanting liberation from plowing were refused and ordered to continue working, but they rebelled and left their plantations. Unattended crops and lost animals died of malnourishment due to the negligence, and many cultivated animals began to wander the forest. Europe developed a corrupt economy from this disaster.
The Christian church also suffered from the plagues. It lost prestige, religious influence, and guidance over its members because the church promised a remedy, alleviation, and a justification for the terrifying plague. The church preached that the plague was God’s will, although the explanation for this severe punishment was mysterious. The community sought a response, but the priests and bishops thought of nothing. The clergy discarded their Christian obligations and escaped. People prayed to God and pleaded for forgiveness. After the plague, disillusioned and aggravated residents began revolting against the cathedral. (Disease and History npag.)
It began as an excruciating headache, but then instantaneously evolved into chills and a soaring fever. Queasiness, vomiting, backaches, and discomfort immediately followed. Brightness became painful to the eyes. These symptoms were experienced in a matter of three to four days. Millions of citizens suffered these maladies throughout the fourteenth century. The Bubonic Plague, also acknowledged as the Black Death or Black Plague, was one of the most horrifying epidemics of all time.