The Bubonic Plague DBQ
Length: 1587 words (4.5 double-spaced pages)
Sweeping through Western Europe during the fourteenth century, the Bubonic Plague wiped out nearly one third of the population and did not regard: status, age or even gender. All of this occurred as a result of a single fleabite. Bubonic Plague also known as Black Death started in Asia and traveled to Europe by ships. The Plague was thought to be spread by the dominating empire during this time, the Mongolian Empire, along the Silk Road. The Bubonic Plague was an infectious disease spread by fleas living on rats, which can be easily, be attached to traveler to be later spread to a city or region. Many factors like depopulation, decreasing trade, and huge shifts in migrations occurred during the Bubonic Plague. During Bubonic Plague there were also many different beliefs and concerns, which include fear, exploitation, religious and supernatural superstition, and a change of response from the fifteenth to eighteen century.
Fear of the Bubonic Plague mainly came from people not knowing what was the cause of the Plague, this fear seems to become even more uncertain as the best doctors, scientist, or even the educated do not know the cause of the Plague. This theologian Erasmus of Rotterdam (document 2) sees this fear, as he seems to blame the cause of the Plague in England because of the filth on the street.
This fear can also be seen in by the educated as the representative of the Frankish king Staden (document 5) explains how the houses of the sick were immediately nailed up after the doctors visited them. Another example of how fear occurred during the plague was in Pepys (document 13) when the English naval bureaucrat, a part of the government, stated that no one would buy wigs. Wigs at this time were very common for government officials and honorable men to wear and did not wear them as they feared the infection they may spread to them as it could have been the hair off the heads of people who had been killed by the Plague. The fear of the Plague was also clearly seen in Motto of Giovan Filippo, (document 6) as desperate measures like quarantines were built, regulations were enforced, and bonfires to burn infected things were done to stop the disease. Another type of fear was a fear of trade with nations who had the Plague, this is seen in A Journal of the Plague Year, (document 14) as no port would admit England's ships and thus their foreign exportation stopped. Lastly we see fear in the schools, in Schoolmaster at Deventer (document 1) as many boys have died from the plague which seem to have driven new students away from the school and maybe even teachers or other educated people as well.
Exploitation during the Plague was very common as people were afraid of the Plague and thought money was of the only real value in the end. An example of exploitation would be in The Deceptions of Demons, (document 4) when the heir of the dead paid the people in the lower/common class to smear an ointment to spread the Plague. This was done so that the heirs could obtain their inheritance more quickly, leaving the commoners to get the disease, and used the commoner's vulnerability of income to aid them in their greed. Taking advantage of people was also seen in Miguel Parets, (document 11) when the nurses were hired to help the Plague patients when they only made them die faster, as they would sooner get their pay. The mistreatment of people was seen in Nehemiah Wallington, (document 8) when he seems to use the social status of the people in the household to determine who he would be willing to give up to the disease, starting with the lower status of the workers, then to his children. Lastly exploitation was seen by the use of resources at the expense of affecting long-term well being of others, this was seen in Book of Reason, (document 3) when the rich used their resources of money and thus fled the area, leaving the poor behind. Those who fled and escaped the plague were usually the people who cared little for the well being of others. The affected long-term well being of others was that the people who wished to help their fellow citizens, remained behind and were summarily killed themselves, leaving only the corrupt of the population alive to take over business and politics.
Superstition is the final belief during the Black Plague this belief was mainly religious but also supernatural was as many people during this time turned to God and the church for a cure and hope. This religious superstition is seen in Lisabetta Centenni, (document 7) a housewife in Italy, commented on her husband's rapid recovery upon being fed a piece of bread that had been touched by a saint. While another religious superstition was seen in A Historical Relation of the Plague at Marseilles in the Year 1720, (document 16) which believed that the plague was sent by God, in punishment for people's sins. Another superstition based on religion was seen in Sir John Reresby, (document 12) when he stated that he trusted in God to determine his faith during the Plague. Included in religious superstition was the Emperor Leopold and the Plague Column, (document 15) where we can see sometimes we can observe a combination of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Virgin and/or Jesus Christ iconography. Lastly we can see religious superstition in Father Dragoni, (document 9) when the Health Magistracy sent a priest to sanitize the area, when they normally would have sent a health official. While supernatural superstition was seen in, The Reform of Medicine (document 10) when a physician made note of the fact that his patients were resorting to the wearing of toads, whose venom was believed to draw out the plague, on their bodies.
Additional document that would be useful in analyzing the various responses to the outbreak of the Plague form the fifteenth to eighteen century would be document from other areas impacted by the Plague. Other than Europe areas like the Middle East or even Asia would give an overall response to the Plague. As these areas during the time the Plague hit were also developed and were religiously tied like the European, they would provide a worldwide aspect of the areas the Plague hit. Another type of additional document that would be useful would be of a person with the Plague, as they would give a personal look on their own beliefs and concerns of the Plague as they have first hand experience. The Plague patient would also provide the beliefs or views of how people responded to them. Documents from a poor person would be extremely helpful as many educated and high class people seem to describe their situation but they themselves have a different point of view from their own life.
When analyzing the various responses and concerns of the outbreaks from the Plague there seems to be a change over time from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth century. During the course of the Plague common beliefs and/or concerns underwent a dramatic change. During the early years of the Plague outbreak the prevalent belief was of fear of the Plague and its uncertainty of the cause. Most people during this time were concerned that the Plague would affect their economy and their own work/business. People were also concerned of their lives and their family's well being. Then as time went on beliefs changed from this to fear to a religious superstition. We can see this as we compare the writings of Weyer, (document 4) from the fifteenth century, who feared the Plague, to the writings of Bertrand, (document 16) from the eighteenth as he declared the Plague was cause because of religious superstition. This shift in belief may be caused by the "Age of Enlightenment" that caused people to think more irrationality, and to heavily believe in superstition.
In conclusion the Bubonic Plague was a disease that swept through Western Europe to Asia during the fourteenth century. The Bubonic Plague was an infectious disease that was spread by fleas living on rats, which later attached on to travelers. During Bubonic Plague there were also many different beliefs and concerns, which include fear, exploitation, religious and supernatural superstition, and a change of response from the fifteenth to eighteen century. Fear of the Plague was caused by: people not knowing what was the cause of the Plague and seem to become even more uncertain as the best doctors, scientist, or even the educated do not know the cause of the Plague. While exploitation occurred as people were afraid of the plague and thought money was of the only real value in the end, and thus misused people in the end to gain prosperity for themselves. Religious and supernatural superstition was another belief during this time as many people during this time turned to God and the church for a cure and hope. Lastly common beliefs and/or concerns underwent a dramatic change over time from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century that may have been caused by the "Age of Enlightenment" which left people to think more irrationality, and to heavily believe in superstition. Even though there were many different concerns and beliefs during the time of the Plague, it had caused any factors like depopulation, decreasing trade, and huge shifts in migrations, which thus had a major effect in world history.