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Due to the lack of technology at that time to battle the disease the black plague spread without and signs of slowing. The "doctors" of their time did their best to combat its spread but without knowing the cause they assumed that it was god punishing them for impure deeds and therefore used many holistic medicines that had often caused it to spread faster yet.
Because of the vast amount of death and pain that was experienced during the plague it had a profound effect on the society. In doing so it also affected religion as well as art. During this time art was almost lost and showed no growth. Understanding the effects of the "black death" on society is key when learning about British literature today.
The first sign of this disease occurred in 430 B.C. However, the epidemic first struck Europe in 1347 and ended in 1351. It hit today's England the hardest of all and it took over 400 years to regain the same population before the plague.
The most memorizing part of the black plague is how quickly the disease was spread throughout the world. The epidemic was spread by infected rats. Fleas would then bite these rats and eat the infected blood. However they would then need to regurgitate this blood into their next host which is of course humans. There are actually three different strains of the plague.
The first and most common of these is the bubonic plague. Some of the symptoms of this disease are enlarged lymph nodes, head aches, nausea, aching, vomiting, and a fever ranging from 100-105. These symptoms would take up to 7 days to first appear.
The second most common version is the pneumonic plague. This strain has a 90-95% death rate. It mainly affected the lungs and gave symptoms such as slimy suptum (saliva) that is tinted with blood.
Finally, the last strain is septicemic which is the rarest of all. This is mainly because the host dies before having a chance to spread the disease.
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The plague is still seen in part of Asia on occasion but there have been no outbreaks with its original strength seen in Europe. The last major outbreak took place in 1722 and currently there are only 2500 cases of the plague seen per year.
Because of the devastating effects explained above, Europe suffered greatly not only in a physical aspect but also economically. Because people were sure that they were going to die anyway often times people stopped working so that they could live there life to the fullest while they still could. The plague had hit Europe when they were already in the middle of a food shortage and this lack of incoming supplies leads to greater loss. In fact it is believed that the effects of the plague were so strong that Europe today is just finally getting over it financially. Also, today's prices are lower because there was a period without any growth in Europe. There was however a positive to the plagues economic effects. It had single handedly ended feudalism. This is because farmers were now a precious commodity; the few healthy and willing workers were in short supply and could leave their land and go into the cities and still find work. Also, they demanded higher wages for their work and had a livable wage.
This disease also had adverse effects on people mentally. Often times people would look for reasons to laugh because everything around them was so miserable all the time. One such example is that they used to make mock funerals and just make fun of the deceased person. Also, the disease had lead to much prejudice. They used to blame the handicapped that were banished on the outskirts of there town for the creation of the disease and used them as scape goats for their anger and aggression. The people were often stoned or injured in some way. Worst of all, the children were deeply mentally effected and became disturbed due to their seeing so much death and nudity at a developmental age in their lives. Also, children were often abandoned at a young age due to the fact that the parents did not want to develop the disease from their children. Often times it would only be the girls that were abandoned because boys were favored over the girls in society at that time. The population also dwindled because people stopped having kids. They believed that they were more trouble then they are worth because they were just going to suffer and die from the disease anyway. One piece of evidence of children's suffering the nursery rhyme "ring around the rosy." Its lyrics are actually meant to depict the effects of the plague.
One of the scariest parts of the plague its self is that no one know how it came about or how to cure it. Doctors often fled because they were afraid that they would contract the disease from there patients. There were several ideas at the time about what was causing the disease and how they should try to fix it. One theory was that it was spread through vapors in the air and believed t that they could use perfume and daisies to stop the spread of the disease. They had fixated a bird like mask with perfume to the front to their face so that any air that they breathed smelled like the perfume rather then the vapor. One other theory was that it was an evil or satanic disease and that they could keep it out of their town by ringing church bells every day. Some believed that complete isolation would provide them with safety. This however never worked because they were often locked into a enclosed place with people that had already contracted the disease earlier and didn't know that they had it. One of the more practical ideas, although it did not work was to quarantine incoming ships for 40days and 40 nights before they opened it up, this however was not enough to stop the disease. One such area was Venice. The last way that they had made and effort to stop the effects of the plague is build fires to surround themselves and this actually worked on the one strain of the plague. This was used by the pope. Later there were some controversial ideas of the time on curing the disease. They believed that good diet and fresh air would allow them a better chance for good health. This however was not often followed because the experts said the opposite and recommended that people stay inside and isolated. Also, it was recommended that regular bathing would help but the experts said that that was a bad idea because it would open the pores. Of course we know today that fresh air and bathing is a big part of good health.
The disease led to the adverse effects on religion. At first it almost seemed as it would strengthen people's faith in god because they began to pray to god to help them and for them to not get sick. However, people eventually lost faith because of all the horrible things that had surrounded them. Mainly people believed that it was god's wrath for the sins that they had committed but it was religiously taxing because they didn't know what the sin was. Some others believed that because god wanted to punish them with the plague they could punish themselves by enduring painful rituals and god wouldn't take their lives. This however this actually worsened the spread of the disease due to the fact that their wounds were exposed and could become easily infected. The church also lost much of their strength due to the fact that many clergymen fled from the disease.
Now destitute, diseased, and living in fear there was little time or need for art. Often time's people would draw skeletons socializing with the living. These were dark depictions of what the artist was feeling on a day by day basis. The other alternative is that they did no art at all. There was a period of time in history were virtually no art can be found. Literature suffered equally. In fact written language was almost lost. Therefore, it can be determined that even once writing had been reintroduced to the masses it loss much of its original style and structure. Over time however it managed regain its use and place in society.
The black plague created an enormous amount of suffering. It affected the physical population if not for the vast amount of deceased people then for the fact that England was sent into such sever depression that food and proper nutrition was impossible. This, in turn, this lead to extreme mental defects and problems as more and more people became disturbed psychologically. Art was affected by this mental state of depression. Written language was almost lost and greatly hindered by the lack of education within the time period.