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virulence that the course of human history changed forever (Wark). In its second pandemic, the bubonic plague, mostly referred to as the Black Death, wiped out almost a third of Europe s population. The Black Death was a horrible tragedy that was responsible for many deaths and caused many changes in the 14 th through 17 th century. The bubonic plague could not have spread on it s own: it needed help.
For instance, natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, drove rats to look for shelter in human settlements (Wark). The rats would reside in areas where humans lived and spread the plague to them. The humans would in turn get sick and die along with the rats. Furthermore, not only rats carried the Yersinia pestis, which carries the bubonic plague; insects and other rodents also could become carriers of the deadly plague (Nikiforuk 45). Humans would unknowingly transport the plague from village to village, killing everyone in them. The rats would also climb aboard ships and travel with the cargo.
The plague was fatal, and caused horrible grief for many. The Black Death left Europe with heaps of infected corpses. For example, contractors of the plague had a thirty to seventy-five percent chance of death within a period of six days (Plague; Wark). A victim would not have much of a chance to live, or any reasons to try. Most of their friends and family would catch the plague and die from it too. As well, Europe s population decreased by about one-third in two years (Nikiforuk 43).
People were dropping by the minute. In most places, a whole village could be completely still because all the people who had lived there before had died. Years full of pain and fear that not many survived through killed Europe for centuries. The Black Plague can be traced to several different causes but what it did to Europe was the worst.
In fact, the westward spread was more known because between 1330 and 1346, traders from the east brought disease to Europe (Gottfried 35). The plague must have spread quickly because trade was so great in Asia. Through the different trade routes, the plague could hit all sides of Europe, increasing the chances of death. The next significant occurrence involving this particular disease was when it struck Constantinople, Turkey and eliminated half the population (Gottfried 67). A cure for this disease had not been found yet. The Europeans had not learned to be clean and live in sanitary conditions.
People s lack of knowledge on how to be clean was going to have major consequences. Once the disease began spreading to Europe, people had to look for symptoms. For example, in the beginning stages, people with this disease suffered from headaches, nausea, vomiting, and aching joints (Plague). Sometimes the pain from all these symptoms at once would make a person want to die.
The family and friends of the diseased people suffered as well emotionally. In addition, another similar plague is the bubonic plague, which causes egg-sized swellings to appear in the armpits, groin, and neck (Karlen 74). The people of Europe were unsure about the different types of plagues. With different kinds of plague, people would not be able to know what to look for to prevent it. This can cause mass confusion, which led the people to find something to blame it on. With all the carnage, many people s ideas and superstitions were changed.
During this time, stories of vampires were common because of the red gums and pale skin on the dead victims (Roden 11). People were very gullible at this time and would even believe in fictional characters such as vampires. This could have caused even more fear in the people s minds. Also, some people believed in things such as the plague being caused when evil people exhaled (Chamberlain 130). This is just one example of the finger-pointing that many people were doing. They were not sure of the plague s origins, so they took it upon themselves to create them.
Through all the havoc, some found ways to vent their frustration while others took advantage of the situation. For instance, many apothecaries made money by selling poison to diseased victims (Chamberlain 133). They weren t doing this to help the people; they only wanted to make a profit. The well being of these other people wasn t their concern, only their own. Equally important is the fact that Jews were blamed of spreading the disease by poisoning wells (Karlen 135). Much of this came from the fact that many Europeans were Christians and had already begrudged and persecuted the Jews because they believed they caused the death of Christ.
They were used as scapegoats and were wrongfully killed because of people s prejudice ideas and lack of tolerance for other religions. The Black Death killed many. It was like a dark cloud settled over the lives of Europe: it was impossible to hide or escape it. Cries of pain, prayers to god: nothing could stop it.
It could have been destiny for The Black Plague to happen, it could have just been a natural occurrence, but there is no doubt in the fact that no matter why it happened, it was a awful calamity that brought doom and suffering. The plague still exists today, but most cases are small and controlled. Gottfried, Robert S. The Black Death. New York: The Free Press, 1983 Gottlieb, Beatrice.
The Family in the Western World: From the Black Death to the Industrial Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Karlen, Arno. Man and Microbes: Disease and Plagues in History and Modern Times.
New York: G. P. Putman s sons, 1995. Nikiforuk, Andrew. The Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Epidemics, Plagues, Famines, and other Scourges. Toronto: Penguin Books Ltd. , 1991.
Plague. Microsoft Encarta. CD-ROM. 1997, ed. Roden, Katie. Plague.
Brookfield: Copper Breech Books, 1996. Wark, Lori Anne. The Black Death. Discovery Communications, Inc. 1998. Online.
Internet. 28 April 1999. Available web
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