When most people think of the Black Plague, the persecution of the Jews is not the first thing that enters into their mind. John Aberth, the author of The Black Death describes this unusual, unknown fact when he says “scapegoating of minority groups seems to be a common calling in times of crisis, and medieval Christian society during the Black Death was no exception” (Aberth 117). By saying this, Aberth is comparing the persecutions of the Jewish population during the Black Death to other judgments that have been laid upon minority groups throughout history. This pattern is very common during tragedies such as the plague because it is human nature, especially during this time period, to place blame on someone or something. But, why exactly did the blame of the Black Death fall on the European Jewish people’s shoulders? By focusing on the horrific treatment of Jewish people during the Plague, I will show that the Christians used the Plague to diminish their debt to the Jews, specifically by the murder of Jews throughout Europe.
The Black Death, also known as the Great Mortality and Bubonic Plague, occurred during the years of 1347-1350. Although it didn’t last very long, it is said that the Plague killed over 1.5 million people in its short amount of time in activity throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. The Black Death was a very gruesome and horrible disease that caused fever, headache, chills weakness, and inflammation of the lymph nodes causing the disturbing site of buboes on the neck, groin and armpits. Petrarch, an Italian Scholar, described his feelings towards the Plague as he wrote, “O happy posterity, who will not experience such abysmal woe and will look upon our testimony as a fable” (qtd. in Nohl 17). Here, P...
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.... In the Wake of the Plague; The Black Death and the World it Made. New York: The Free Press, 2001. Print.
Cohn Jr, Samuel K. The Black Death and the Burning of the Jews. Past and Present. August, 2007. Volume 196, Issue 1. Print.
Horrox, Rosemary. The Black Death. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994. Print.
Nohl, Johannes. The Black Death: A Chronicle of the Plague. Yardley: Westholme, 2006. Print.
Pedro IV, King of Aragon. “Response to Jewish Progrom of Tarrega. December 23, 1349”. The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350: A Brief History with Documents. Ed John Aberth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 142-143. Print.
Stow, Kenneth. Papal and Royal Attitudes Toward Jewish Lending in the Thirteenth Century. AJS Review, Vol. 6. 1981. pp.161-184
“Moneylending”. Def. 1. Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam Webster, 2014. Web. 13 April, 2014.
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