The Black Death

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  • The Black Death
    • What was the Black Death?
      • A severe outbreak of disease that affected England from 1348 to 1350.
      • Bubonic plague that was spread by fleas carried by rats.
      • The disease originated in the Middle East and was brought to England by rats on boats from Europe.
      • It spread from ports all over England.
      • The Black Death killed about 1/3 of the population- 1.5 million people died. About 200 million people died across Europe.
      • In England, around 7500 people died a day. Everyone was affected- the old and young, rich and poor. Even the King Edward III's daughter died.
    • Beliefs about the Black Death
      • Although doctors now know how the disease spread, in 1348 the vast majority of people were illiterate and very little was known about the causes of the disease.
      • Many people believed the disease was a punishment from God. They therefore thought they could beat it with prayer.
      • A popular idea was that the end of the world was coming
      • A popular belief was that the disease was spread by 'bad air'
      • One method of dealing with the disease was to seat victims near a large fire, which would destroy bad air.
      • A popular cure, even used by plague doctors, was to place sweet smelling dried flowers and herbs over noses and mouths to prevent the bad air from entering the body.
      • Some people used dried toads and leeches to remove the poison. Figs and butter were used to soften swollen lumps.
    • Symptoms
      • People learnt to identify the symptoms of the Black Death by observation.
      • To begin with victims suffered from flu symptoms of sweating and coughing.
      • Large lumps appeared on their bodies. Usually on the arms and legs.
      • The lumps, or buboes, were first red in colour, full of blood. They then turned black which is how the disease got its name. Lumps went black as blood in the body dried out
      • Victims suffered high temperatures and blotches appeared all over the skin. Most people who caught it died within 5 days.
    • Social effects of the Black Death
      • Whole villages and towns were wiped out by the Black Death
      • People began leaving towns and going to live in the countryside in an attempt to avoid it.
      • Foreigners, and non-Christians, such as Jews, were attacked because some people blamed them for causing the disease.
      • Jews were forced to live in separate parts of towns and others were banned altogether.
      • The population in England dropped by 1/3 in 2 years
    • Economic effects of the Black Death
      • Much agricultural land was unused due to fewer peasants.
      • Unattended livestock were left to die
      • Food started to run low and prices began to rise. Due to the lower numbers of peasants and craftsmen, they started to demand higher wages for their work.
      • Villeins began to refuse to work on the lord's land for free. Lords offered them more food and money to work their land so those who survived received benefits form the Black Death.
    • The next 100 years
      • The 50 years after the Black Death saw many villages abandoned, Many villages completely disappeared and were only rediscovered in the 20th century.
      • Many people began to lose faith in the Christian Church as even churchmen and people who prayed died form the Black Death.
      • 40% of priests and monks died from the Black Death so there were less people to give religious advice.
      • In 1349 a law was passed, the Ordinance of Labourers, that tried to keep wages at post-Black Death level but it was ignored.
      • When the Poll tax was introduced in 1381, a major rebellion took place known as the Peasants Revolt.


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