The Black Death

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The Black Death In the early 1330s an outbreak of a deadly disease occurred called the bubonic plague. The plague mainly affects rodents, but fleas can transmit the disease to people. Once people are infected, they can infect others rapidly. The plague causes fever and painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it got its name. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and turn black (Encarta). China was one of the busiest of the worlds trading nations, it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of the plague in China spread to western Asia and Europe. In October of 1347, several Italian merchant's ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea, one of the key links in trade with China. When the ships docked Sicily, many of those on board were already dying of the plague. Within days the disease spread to the city and the surrounding countryside. To give an example of what it would be like to live during around the time of the plague: "Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, people quickly drove the Italians from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon deserted, and they were stricken too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial (Shrewsbury 25)." The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. The Italian writer Boccaccio said its victims often "ate with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise (Shrewsbury 27)." By the following August, the plague had spread as far no... ... middle of paper ... ...or nearly 60 years. During that period it was estimated that half the population of the Eastern Roman Empire died either as a direct result of the disease, or from the general destitution that the plague created. The effects of the plague greatly weakened the Eastern Roman Empire and may have helped to bring out the ultimate decline. Accurate figures are hard to come by, but it has been estimated that during four years of the Black Death some 25 million people, one-quarter to one-half of the total population of Europe died from the plague. It would be wrong to attribute the Renaissance to the disruption in European society brought about by the Black Death. The Renaissance in Italy was already underway when the Black Death struck. But still, any weakening of the rigid structures that encompassed the medieval world probably helped to open men to new ideas.

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