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The Bubonic Plague Essay

1158 words - 5 pages

Cantor states that,No one - peasant or aristocrat - was safe from the disease [bubonic plague], and once it was contracted, a horrible and painful death was almost a certainty. The dead and the dying lay in the streets abandoned by frightened friends and relatives (482).This certainly paints an accurate and horrifying picture of the fourteenth century during the plague. The bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death or The Plague, (Hindley 103) was one of the major scourges of the Middle Ages. It killed indiscriminately without remorse or thought of consequences. Because the plague was so widespread, theories about causes, blame and a variety of supposed cures abounded. Most of these were without basis or fact and relied on myths and rumors. Theories for the causes and blames came from ignorance and hate, two horrible things married by fear. Some of the cures were not much better than the plague itself.The plague was transmitted to humans by fleas from infected rats that nested in people's roofs (Matthew 154). Fourteenth century man had no concept of how the disease was spread or how it could be stopped. The plague was transmitted to western Europe from China along trade routes (Matthew 154). Once the plague had reached the coast of Europe, it was soon transmitted to the countryside through the commercial trade networks (Matthew 154). The first cases of the plague occurred in a European colony called Genoa (Blum, Cameron and Barnes 38). It was 'besieged in 1347' by mongols, who flung plague riddled bodies over the walls of Genoa. This was considered 'an early form of biological warfare' (Blum, Cameron and Barnes 38). According to Matthews, 'Experts could do nothing to cure or explain the plague' (154). The people of this period had no idea what they were dealing with. Even if they had known what caused the plague, their medical technology was almost nonexistent, so they could not have invented a cure (Matthew 154). Though the doctors of the time were unable to cure the disease, or even explain it, they did observe its symptoms and try to supply theories of the plague's cause (Matthew 154-5). People were aware that if you came in contact with the sick or their belongings (clothing, bedding, etc...) you would soon be afflicted with the disease (Herlihy 353). Medieval man also knew that animals could catch the disease from a person's material possessions (Herlihy 353) but they never realized they could catch the plague from animals. There were three main theories about why the plague had stricken an area. The first is a 'corrupted atmosphere' or bad air, the second was the alignment of the planets, and the third the wrath of God (Ziegler 3). Some people said there were clouds that carried the plague (Ziegler 3-4). Others believed that it was a cloud made from steam that had risen from dead fish (Ziegler 4). Some believed that the placement of the planets was the cause of the plague (Ziegler 25). The medical department at the University of Paris...

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