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Medevil Time Essay

1836 words - 7 pages

The Black Death and it's Effects on Medieval SocietyThere have been many diseases reported historically such as smallpox, measles and typhoid but none were as horrendous as the Black Death. In order to understand the devastation of this disease we must look at the effects it had on the political, economic and social structures of medieval Europe. "The Black Death first appeared in Europe in 1347 when a boat filled with dead and dying people docked at Messina harbor, north east of Sicily."( Königshofen, Jacob von) This boat came from the Orient and within days of its arrival this death ship had spread its epidemic throughout Messina. Although it is doubtful that Black Death and other epidemics were by themselves responsible for the downfall of European society they were, however, the largest contributing factor.During the Middle Ages people lived under the feudal system, a system in which the king owned all the land and parceled out large estates to the noblemen. These lords would in turn grant parcels of land to peasants who would live on and work the land. These peasants would pay the lords a large portion of whatever they earned, either in food supplies or money. The lords lived very well at the expense of the poverty-stricken serfs. Then the plague struck and no one was immune to this disease. The nobility perished at the same rate as the peasants. The nobility that did not die fled to other areas unaffected by the plague. The vast depopulation of the noble class left manors and duties abandoned and subject to infiltration by the peasant class. According to Dr. Ellis Knox this new situation did not sit well with noble class that remained, and hostilities between the nobility and the peasants were severe. The abandoned government offices became filled with dishonest men, many of whom had selfish motives. These new officials had intentions of feathering their own nests rather than in rebuilding the hierarchical government. The advent and reoccurrence of the Black Death also allowed for a new and powerful government body and also sparked a growth of a class of townspeople known as the Bourgeois. (Dr. Ellis,1995) They consisted of the merchant and working class of the towns. While the plague had virtually wiped out the previous government, the new government was instrumental in establishing a harmonious, interdependent and orderly governmental body.As Dr. Ellis stated, the clergy played a large role in European society. Being well educated and literate they had the role of providing divine grace and bureaucratic services to both the nobility and the peasants. Most Europeans accepted the word of the church without question. When the plague struck it became apparent that the Catholic priests could provide no explanation for the reason God permitted such devastation. The priests were unable to restore the people's belief in religion because of their actions during the plague. The priests that did not flee to wealthier parishes or unaffected...

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