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The Black Death: A Plague In Europe

3075 words - 13 pages

The Black Death was an epidemic that killed over 75 million people worldwide. This “Black Death”, also known as the Bubonic Plague, first popped up in China and the East in the 1330s. This horrible epidemic did not reach Europe until 1347. This disease killed as many as 25 million of the European population of about 80 million between the years 1347 and 1351. While there were many cases of the Bubonic Plague all around the world, this paper will focus on the outbreak in Europe. The Black Death had taken more than 25 percent of the population of England alone. It was widely believed to be a combination of various forms of plague- bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. 1
In the year 1348, a virtual ghost fleet of Genovese trading ships reached Messina, an Italian port, with most of their crew dead or dying. This was just the beginning of the horrible Black Plague that erupted in Europe. This disease not only spread quickly across populations, but also progressed very quickly in individuals. The Sicilian authorities hastily ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbor, but it was too late. Over the next five years, the mysterious Black Death would kill more than 20 million people in Europe – almost one-third of the continent's population.2
When talking about the Black Death, Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian author and important humanist replied, “I say, then, that the years of the beatific incarnation of the Son of God had reached the tale of one thousand three hundred and forty eight, when in the illustrious city of Florence, the fairest of all the cities of Italy, there made its appearance that deadly pestilence, which, whether disseminated by the influence of the celestial bodies, or sent upon us mortals by God in His just wrath by way of retribution for our iniquities, had had its origin some years before in the East, whence, after destroying an innumerable multitude of living beings, it had propagated itself without respite from place to place, and so calamitously, had spread into the West.”3
The plague presented itself in three different forms. The most common variant was the bubonic in which derived its name from the swelling or buboes that appeared on a victim's neck, armpits, or groin. The tumors the victims received could range in size of that of an egg to that of an apple.4 Some survived the painful ordeal, however the severity of the lesions usually signaled that the victim had only a week to live. Infected fleas that attached themselves to rats and then to humans resulted in spreading this bubonic type of the plague. 5
A second variation, which was called the pneumatic plague, attacked the respiratory system and was spread by breathing the exhaled air of a victim. It was much more virulent than the bubonic type and so the life expectancy was measured in one or two days.6 Finally, the septicemic version of the disease attacked the blood system. This version of the Bubonic Plague was the most fatal. Having no defense and no...

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