What were the consequences of "Black Death"?

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carolynosborne eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Black Death was a terrible illness, the bubonic plague, that first struck Europe in the mid 1300s. It came about as a result of trade, travel, and ignorance. The plague is carried by a type of rat that lives near people in homes and in ships. Fleas that carry the actual bacterium lived on the rats and as the rats died, the fleas began feasting on human beings, giving them the disease. 

Over a short time, the plague traveled all across the Middle East and Europe, killing millions of people. Records kept during that period of time were sketchy, so various scholars have estimated different numbers of those actually killed. It was a large percentage of the population of the time.

Medicine at the time was a crude affair and the explanations of the time did not get anywhere close to what was really going on. As a result, attempts to prevent and treat the plague were worse than useless. 

As for consequences, since the population was decimated, this meant that there was a larger demand for labor, benefiting the laborers of the time, the peasants. This was not true for everyone; governments began restricting trade and some places, such as England who was at war with Scotland and needed grain imports, came close to starvation. 

There were social upheavals, as peasants became less restricted. The feudal system was partially decimated by the plague. Additionally, because of the lack of labor, people had to invent more efficient ways of doing things, such as agriculture. This lead to some technological innovations. 

Certain people were especially hurt by the plague's social consequences. Because there was no accurate explanation for the plague, people at the edge of society, such as the Jews, got blamed for it and were often killed. 

The plague would continue to strike Europe periodically for centuries after the initial strike in the 1300s. 

 

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