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Exploring the Black Death Essay

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Puzzled by incomplete historical records of Modern England, interdisciplinary researchers are calling into question the historical accuracy of the Black Death. The Black Death was a prodigious epidemic, killing anywhere from thirty-three to sixty percent of Europe’s population (Theilmann 376). Popular belief is that the disease Y. pesits caused the Black Death. However, after examination of historical and modern plague accounts, some researchers feel otherwise. This paper explores the background of epidemics, the contrasting views of the Black Death, and the implications of the Black Death on modern science.
To understand the opposing viewpoints, a brief overview of epidemics, specifically Y. pestis, must be given. “An epidemic is generally an outbreak of disease widespread enough to affect a whole population – an area, a country or even a continent” (Lowth 42). Looking at the spread of disease and Y. pestis’s history will help in understanding each view.
Disease spreading between individuals is remarkable at the microscopic level, but disease spreading rapidly across a population is extraordinary. Unique interactions between an infectious agent, host, and environment create an epidemic (43). Epidemics, once formed, require optimal conditions for dispersion. “For a plague to spread it needs a disease agent that does not disable or kill its host too rapidly, populations who are susceptible, and a mode of transfer that works in the environment” (43).
The first condition considers the lethality of disease. Highly lethal diseases are not considered epidemics (42). Diseases with high mortality rates lack the ability to be transmitted between hosts. Epidemics tend to display a lower mortality rate making them highly contagious (4...


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...mmer months of the year (Theilmann 376). Because the Black Death had a seasonal peak during winter months, critics do not think bubonic plague caused the Black Death (Welford and Bossak 1). However, critics fail to ignore potential adaptations of Y. pestis and climate changes (Nigel 2 and Welford 5). Without looking at the full spectrum of evidence there should be no conclusion.
Certain skepticism is important with any scientific finding. There could always be contradictory evidence to a theory. This idea can be related to the Black Death dispute. Researchers do know Europe’s population was decimated during the fourteenth century. The means by which this happened is uncertain. Therefore, the theory equating bubonic plague and the Black Death will never be for certain. However, with the evidence we have at present, a strong case can be made equating the two.



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