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The Culprits
The Famine of 1315-1317
 By 1300 Europeans were farming almost all
the land they could cultivate.
A population crisis developed.
Climate changes in Europe produced three
years of crop failures between 1315-17
because of excessive rain.
As many as 15% of the peasants in some
English villages died.
One consequence of
starvation & poverty
was susceptibility to
Path of the Plague
1347: Plague Reaches
The Symptoms
Septicemia Form:
almost 100%
mortality rate.
The Black Death
The Black Death came in three forms:
1. bubonic
2. pneumonic
3. septicemic
Bubonic plague
• The bubonic plague was the most commonly
seen form of the Black Death. The
mortality rate was 30-75%. The symptoms
were enlarged and inflamed lymph nodes
(around arm pits, neck and groin).
• Victims were subject to headaches, nausea,
aching joints, fever of 101-105 degrees,
vomiting, and a general feeling of illness.
• Symptoms took from 1-7 days to appear.
Pneumonic Plague
• The pneumonic plague was the second most
commonly seen form of the Black Death. The
mortality rate for the pneumonic plague was
90-95% (if treated today the mortality rate
would be 5-10%).
• The pneumonic plague infected the lungs.
Symptoms included slimy sputum tinted with
blood. Sputum is saliva mixed with mucus
exerted from the respiratory system.
• As the disease progressed, the sputum
became free flowing and bright red.
Symptoms took 1-7 days to appear.
The Septicemic Plague
• The septicemic plague was the most rare form of
all. The mortality was close to 100% (even today
there is no treatment). Symptoms were a high
fever and skin turning deep shades of purple.
• The black death got its name from the deep
purple, almost black discoloration." Victims
usually died the same day symptoms appeared.
In some cities, as many as 800 people died
every day.
Effects of the Black Death on
• 1/3 of the population of Europe died.
• In all, 2.5 million people died from the
• Art, science, and literature stopped
being created.
• People were only worried about their
Effect on Children
• Children suffered as well. A common
nursery rhyme is:
Ring a-round the rosy
Pocket full of posies
Ashes, ashes!
We all fall down!
• Ring around the rosy: rosary beads give
you God's help.
• A pocket full of posies: used to stop the
odor of rotting bodies which was at one
point thought to cause the plague, it was
also used widely by doctors to protect them
from the infected plague patients.
• Ashes, ashes: the church burned the dead
when burying them became to laborious.
• We all fall down: dead.
The Disease Cycle
Flea drinks rat blood
that carries the
multiply in
flea’s gut.
Human is infected!
Flea bites human and
regurgitates blood
into human wound.
Flea’s gut clogged
with bacteria.
From Toggenburg Bible 1411
Lancing a Buboe
Medieval Art & the Plague
Medieval Art & the Plague
Bring out your dead!
Medieval Art & the Plague
An obsession
with death.
Boccaccio in The
“The victims ate lunch
with their friends and
dinner with their
The Danse Macabre
Attempts to Stop the Plague
A Doctor’s
Attempts to Stop the Plague
Self-inflicted “penance” for our sins!
Attempts to Stop the Plague
Pogroms against the Jews
“Jew” hat
“Golden Circle”
obligatory badge
Death Triumphant !:
A Major Artistic Theme
A Little Macabre Ditty
“A sickly season,” the merchant said,
“The town I left was filled with dead,
and everywhere these queer red flies
crawled upon the corpses’ eyes,
eating them away.”
“Fair make you sick,” the merchant said,
“They crawled upon the wine and bread.
Pale priests with oil and books,
bulging eyes and crazy looks,
dropping like the flies.”
A Little Macabre Ditty (2)
“I had to laugh,” the merchant said,
“The doctors purged, and dosed, and bled;
“And proved through solemn disputation
“The cause lay in some constellation.
“Then they began to die.”
“First they sneezed,” the merchant said,
“And then they turned the brightest red,
Begged for water, then fell back.
With bulging eyes and face turned black,
they waited for the flies.”
A Little Macabre Ditty (3)
“I came away,” the merchant said,
“You can’t do business with the dead.
“So I’ve come here to ply my trade.
“You’ll find this to be a fine brocade…”
And then he
The Mortality
35% - 70%
dead !!!
What were the
and social effects
of the Black Death?
• Disease is a major determinant of human history.
• Socially, and politically, Europe was turned upside down…
• The church and the nobility…the two powerhouses of the
Middle Ages lose prestige and power as a result of the
• As a result the kings of Europe consolidate power…it is the
beginning of the end of Feudalism
• Kings use a bureaucracy to rule, raise taxes, pass laws..
• Serfs are in short supply…they can sell their labor to the
highest bidder…their wages go up!
• The decline in production led to higher prices which led to
• The plague led to an overwhelming pessimism, to religious
fanaticism, to suspicion of travelers, and to intolerance of