Why is the Black Death so famous?
There have been many pandemics over the centuries, but the one most people know of is the Black Death. It made a huge impact on the mediaeval World, not least in Britain. I expect people will see similarities between that pandemic and the present Covid-19 one.
How was the Black Death like Coronavirus?
- It killed millions of people, perhaps 100 million over 30% of the population worldwide.
- The plague spread rapidly across Europe and Asia from 1347 to 1351, although it began before then and came back many times afterwards.
- It went through England in 1348, Ireland in 1349 and Scotland in 1350.
- There was no cure, nor prevention, other than keeping away from infected people
- It inspired a lot of fake news including quack cures and preventatives and conspiracy theories
- People looked for scapegoats, mainly foreigners, especially Jews, but also victims of leprosy
- There were far-reaching economic and social effects.
How was the Black Death not like Coronavirus?
- It was caused by a bacterium,Yersinia Pestis, not a virus. It lived in fleas, which it killed, and infected the rats they lived on, killing them, and jumped to humans.
- There were three varieties: pneumonic, affecting the lungs,septicemic, turning the skin purple and causing a high fever, and bubonic, the most common, the symptoms of which were buboes, or swellings, in the armpit, neck or groin, followed by fever and vomiting.
- The death rate was much higher than that of Covid-19, as mentioned above.
- Medical knowledge and hygiene were much poorer at the time. So-called treatments were mainly counterproductive.
What were the effects of the Black Death?
- Depopulation: some villages were abandoned. Overall, there were labour shortages and a fall in land values. Together, these things led to the end of feudalism and the development of capitalism. The lord of the manor could not rely on his traditional rights to force peasants to work for him. He had to bid against his neighbours for their services. Laws controlling what people could wear or own, according to their class, were ignored: money became the deciding factor.
- Some people believe it had an effect on the climate, leading to a mini-ice-age, due to the decline in human activity.
Will the Coronavirus affect life as much as the Black Death?
I will look at that question in another post. It will be interesting!