The Black Death was a widespread pandemic that hit nearly all of Europe in the 14th century, taking a huge toll.
A major portion of the populations of all affected countries was devastated, many cities became depopulated and the pandemic cast a lasting impact on the overall outlook of the society in different countries.
The pandemic was first reported in Europe in 1346 and it continued to ravage until 1353.
1. The Black Death took a toll of 75 million to 200 million lives. For medieval ages, this was an exceptionally large number and a significant portion of the total population of the world. It is estimated and debated between scholars that Black Death killed 30% to 60% of the European population.
2. The estimated global population before the Black Death was estimated at 450 million. After the deaths caused by the pandemic, the total population of the world was reduced to nearly 350 million.
3. The Black Death was a name given to the diseases in more recent times. At the time of its outspread, it was called “The Pestilence” or “The Great Mortality” in view of the frequent deaths which occurred because of it.
4. In the city of Siena, the Black Death caused half the population to die. It was a time when the construction of a cathedral which was meant to be the biggest cathedral in the world, was ongoing. The cathedral was never completed and stands incomplete even today.
5. Three major types of plague were identified during the period of Black Death: these included the bubonic plague, the pneumatic plague and the septicemic plague.
6. The symptoms of Black Death included the growth of a tumor in groin or armpits which grew as large as an egg. Similar tumors then formed all over the body.
7. It was theorised by some that the plague was the result of a certain alignment of heavenly bodies. This alignment, it was said, had affected the air which now carried disease and plague. It was based on this belief that many cures of the plague attempted to “purify” the air.
8. Bathing was believed to cause the spread of the diseases, so baths were shunned at the time of the Black Death. It was also at this time that many notable perfumes, including Eau du Cologne, were first introduced to suppress the odor due to the lack of baths.
9. The only reigning monarch to have died of Black Death was King Alfonso XI of Castile and Leon.
10. It is believed the Black Death arrived in Europe through Genoese trading ships which landed in Sicily in October 1347. Some sailors aboard the ship were dead while others were seriously ill. The plague spread through Sicily to the rest of the Europe in the course of many years.
11. During the ravages of the Black Death, the cult of flagellants came into being. Flagellants were typically people, many of them from the nobility class, who took to streets and beat themselves with leather straps as a gesture of penance. These flagellants traveled from one town to the other and publicly flogged themselves.
12. In Paris, France, an estimated 800 people died every day of Black Death when the plague was at its peak in the city.
13. Jews were frequently accused in different parts of Europe to be cause of the plague. They were accused of spreading it intentionally, although Jews were victims of it as well. In the city of Strasbourg, 2000 Jews were killed.
14. The cities were particularly affected by the plague because of the lack of hygienic conditions and congested overpopulation of the living quarters for most of the population.
15. In England, Black Death killed nearly half the population. The sharp decline in population led to a decrease in labour power and consequently, an increase in the wages of the available workers.
16. The rise in the wages led to a demand for more rights among the peasants in England. This culminated in the Peasants Revolt in 1381.
17. Given the limited availability of labor, new and modern farming techniques were developed in England. This led to an increase in total agricultural produce.
18. Overall, Black Death also became a decisive factor in diminishing the might of the feudal system in medieval Europe.
19. The period of Black Death also caused widespread disillusionment with the power of the Catholic Church. This may have been one of the major reasons in paving the way for Reformation and Protestantism in England.
20. The actual cause of Black Death’s spread, as researched in modern times, has been found to be a particular variety of flea carrying the virus responsible for the plague. When these fleas bit any victim, the plague is transmitted to the victim as well.
21. Attempted treatments of Black Death included lancing the bubonic growths on the body and applying herbal mixture to the wounds.
22. Countries and regions which had limited trade relations with other parts of Europe suffered relatively little from the Black Death. These included the Kingdom of Poland and isolated villages in remote regions.
23. Witch-hunts and persecutions of minorities other than Jews as well were carried out all over Europe. This happened as fanaticism and religious fervor increased in certain parts of Europe in the wake of the Black Death.
24. The population of Florence in Italy was reduced from 110,000 to 50,000 as a result of the plague.
25. The lack of labor and resources to cultivate lands after the Black Death led to the reforestation of vast tracts of land which had previously been cultivated. This regenerated the growth of many natural flora and fauna.
26. The epidemic had a strong impact on art and culture. European art, music and literature turned morbid and darker themes of pessimism were expressed in the works from the era.
27. The Black Death is said to have been one of the factors leading up to the European and English Renaissance periods. In the wake of the plague, artistic forms tended towards more realism.