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The recognition of the Black Death as a natural disease rather than a spiritual punishment led to innovation in medicine and hygienic practices. Soap and bathing became more common and more accepted in both high and low society; doctors were forced to focus on treating the disease with medicinal cures by experimentation and science rather than by lore and traditional remedies, which were obviously and consistently not working.
One historian, whose name escapes me, said that one social innovation in cities was that marriage contracts began to carry clauses that promised that the bride would be protected and kept indoors. This, he said, was because of the preponderance of women to men who contracted the plague since part of women's typical duties brought them more consistently in contact with other city dwellers, whereas men were more often typically out of the city in fields with other men. [I think it may have been Peter N. Stearn, Michael Ada, Stuart B. Schwart and Marc Jason Gilber in World Civilizations, AP Edition, in which case I should say "they" not "he."]
I think we need to rememeber that the overall impact of the Black Death was to suddenly produce a massive vacuum in terms of the large number of people that died. This then allowed enterprising individuals to rise up above the rest simply because there were much fewer fish in the pond. The boom in trade of new luxury items is one example of this occurring.
The Black Death seems to have resulted in greater social mobility, both literally and symbolically. Many people moved from the countryside into cities, thus giving them access to the kinds to greater opportunities that living in cities can provide. The fact that there were simpy fewer people everywhere also meant greater opportunities to rise economically and socially.
What the Black Death did for agriculture is that it dealt a fatal blow, at least in Western Europe, to manorial agriculture and to serfdom, which was rapidly declining anyway. In a labor-starved market, workers could negotiate wages, seek better opportunities, etc. The English crown actually issued an edict restricting wages, in an effort to curtail the effectiveness of peasant demands.
People still did not realize what was causing sickness before the Black Death. However, after the illness became so devestating there were some changes in food production and storage.
In cities, there were new industries arising, at least in Italy. Trade was booming again and so Italian cities were able to increase their production of various kinds of luxury goods for trade. There were also innovations in the sense of more wealthy families becoming involved in banking. This made more money available to be loaned out to entrepreneurs.
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