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The pluralistic social impact of the Black Death

2023-09-03 来源: 类别: Report范文


下面为大家整理一篇 的essay代写范文 -- The pluralistic social impact of the Black Death,文章讲述最近,席卷西非的埃博拉疫情已致命。令大多数人惊讶的是,根据疾病控制与预防中心的科学家在2014年10月31日的报道,这种新型病毒已经杀死了4,992人。这是一种真正残酷的杀手,藏在西非的角落,但与另一种相比瘟疫,埃博拉病毒只是次要的,埃博拉病毒的影响只是刮擦表面。最致命的灾难是欧洲中世纪爆发的瘟疫-黑死病。它是人类历史上最毁灭性的流行病之一(阿德勒274)。


The pluralistic social impact of the Black Death

I. Introduction

1234Recently, there has been a fatal epidemic sweeping West Africa—Ebola. To most people’s surprise, this novel virus has already killed an estimated 4,992 people according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientists at 31,October, 2014. It is a really ruthless killer hiding in almost corner of West Africa, but when compared with another pestilence, Ebola is just a minor one and the impacts of Ebola just scratch the surface. The most lethal disaster is the plague that broke out in the Middle Age in Europe—Black Death. It was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history (Adler 274). The Black Death had so profound and far-reaching effects on Europe that it almost ruined Europe from the aspects of demographic, cultural, economy, social structure, politics and even religions. Many terrible impacts of this event still affect Europe and the world today. Before discussing the impacts of the Black Death, one must understand what it is and what it did.As Philip J. Alder explains in his book World Civilization, “The Black Death of the mid-and late fourteenth century is themost massive epidemic on record and by far the most lethal in European history”(273). It also occurred in most part of Asia and the Middle East during the same period, which means this outbreak was actually a worldwideepidemic. The event was firstcalled as the "Great Mortality" in Europe in the14th century, “Death came in about two cases out of three, with the highest morality being the old and young”(Kelly, 132). And with later outbreaks, it became known as the Black Death. The name comes from a symptom of the disease, in which sufferers' skin wouldblacken due to thehaemorrhage under the skin. But the later splash of the epidemic and the huge influence it created added a lot of terror to the name “the Black Death”


II. Demographic Impacts

The most direct and initial impact Black Death brought to Europe is the heavy death toll. As a major medium, rat fleas jumped to human bodies from rats and brought the virus to human beings, so that people could easily get infected. Between human beings, the virus could spread quickly by skin to skin contact, affected food intake and even respiratory tract infection (Tataro26). Besides, since the medical knowledge in the 14th century is undeveloped, not only common people, but also the government was not aware of the severity and nature of the disease. As a result of such a rapid spread of the virus and poor medical knowledge, more and more people got infected and could do nothing but wait to die. Although it is very difficult for historians to tell the exact deaths of the Plague for the lack of record, there’s still some estimate statistics. “In Europe alone, it is likely that from 1347 to 1352, the plague killed at least twenty million people” (Sharon). Gradually, the deaths in Europe were followed by a mass of deaths in the rest part of the world—totally, the initial plague infections and recurrences of the plague caused the world’s population to drop by at least 75 million people in the 14th century (Sharon). Because of this plague, the whole world lost a large population and the continent of Europe became an empty deserted wasteland.

If we take a closer look at the infected population, we would notice the mortality associated with the Black Death is highly selective. Sharon N. DeWitte, who comes from a medical field and shows the bubonic plague through medical terms, analyzes the demographical impacts of the epidemic in her article, Mortality Risk and Survival in the Aftermath of theMedieval Black Death. She believes the medieval epidemic mighthave powerfully shaped patterns of health and demography in thesurviving population, producing a post-Black Death populationthat differed in many significant ways, at least over the short term,from the population that existed just before the epidemic. (1) Like all other epidemic, the Black Death targets frail people of all ages at first and kills themwithin an extremely short period of time.The epidemic represents a force of natural selection and wipe out all that can not survive the challenge. In addition, according to Sharon, the epidemic might have affected genetic variation and thus, acted toreduce average levels of frailty in the surviving population.(2) In this case, we might be able to draw the conclusion that the Black Death guarantees the survivors are those physically stronger people and whose offspring have healthier DNA. Samuel K. Cohn, JR holds a slightly different opinion on that and of course his study mainly focuses on the cultural impacts of the Black Death.


III. Cultural Impacts

Historical records haveregarded the Black Death as an outbreak of bubonic plague. But Samuel K. Cohn, JR believes the truth is the other way around. While Sharon approaches the impact of the Black Death from the medical standpoint, Samuel views the Black Death more of a social phenomenon or a tragedy that occurred inevitably in history and made a scar on the progress of human civilization as well as on people’s memories. He explains in his article The Black Death: End of a Paradigm:“The character of the Black Death—its speed, mode of transmission,swiftness and psychological impact was wholly different from that of therat-based bubonic plague.” (35) The way Samuel describes the Black Death, using words like “transmission and swiftness” like the Black Death is a living thing, a scary monster, wrecking down towns and cities, taking lives of men and women and destroy civilization. Apart from the unique feature of the Black Death in terms of pathology, I believe although the epidemic serves as a force of natural selection, its immediate psychological strike among European people and its profound impact is what makes the disease as horrible as its name sound. Just like Samuel’s language, which is filled with sincere and gloomy emotion and depicts a sorrowful and obscure language styles, his study focus on the cultural aspects of impacts created by the Black Death and how the epidemic influence on human nature. As Samuel mentions,

The first sweep ofplague, 1347 to 1351, provoked as close to a universal chorus as one hears in history.Merchant chroniclers, priests, and university-trained doctors claimed that thismalady was new to world history, that doctors and medicine were useless, and thatall that could be done was to pray for God's mercy. Explanations of the plague werenot sought in the human sphere but in God's wrath and the configuration of planets. (3)

At the beginning of the plague, since people found no way to deal with it, most people thought it as a punishment that God put to human beings, so they prayed to God to put the plague to an end. Yet their prayers didn’t work so well, so they began to realize that religion could do nothing to stop the spread of the disease and their family’s suffering. Consequently, many people didn’t believe in God anymore and they refused to do church services in many areas. Actually, it implies the powerlessness of the churches when they ran into the plague and weaken the papal authority.The Black Death was so fierce and the Church was powerless to stop it, since people had no idea about viruses at that time. They started to question the Church and their interpretation of life. Apart from the consistently declining spiritual position of Church among normal people, they are losing money as well. With the help of the nobles, the Church successfully suppressed the peasant revolts caused by the Black Death. However, they still couldn’t get themselves out of declining situation. From the point of economy, most of the Church’s incomes were from lands. With the dropping food prices and the rising wages of labors, the Church and nobles can hardly maintain their income. This will be further discussed later.

Furthermore, the Black Death also had a great impact on European society.As mentioned before. Europe lost about half of its entire populations. With so many deaths, the society experienced several big changes which would influencethe development of society later.It’s worth noting that the epidemicincrease thepersecution of the Jews.During the Black Death, Jews were often targeted because people at that time were unable to explain the plague and were in panic. Fewer Jews were killed by the Black Death compared with other ethnic groups. On this occasion, together with the ethnic prejudice and hatred, many people began to wonder if this plague was a Jewish conspiracy or a curse from God that allowed Jews into their lands. So as a result, lots of Jews were arrested and persecuted. In fact, the reason why fewer Jews died during the Black Death was that their settlements were always isolated, and had better hygiene (Kohn, 200). However, this was not understood at that time.


IV.  Economic Impacts

The Black Death destroyed the economyof Europe that would require a long timeto recover.After the plague had swept through Europe and reduced the population by a third, the prices of goods and food dropped off drastically because of the sudden surplus. Thus people began to bought things which they didn’t really need. However, excess amount of food had been consumed up, and the shortage of labor began to make an impact. Prices rose uprapidly and became as high as the pre-plague time. In addition, some places experienced a shortage of labor that was not relieved for at least two generations. Laborers were soon in high demand.They realized that their services were rare so they could charge any rate they want. As a result, wages for the surviving workers rose sharply (Routt, 2011). In response to this, governments created laws to limitwages. But this proved to be in vain and in turn would later cause peasant revolts in the later 14th Century.

12345In addition to the effects on wages, there were other economic effects as well. Towns were once the important centers of trade in the Late Middle Ages. Markets were located in the centers of towns and people from different places could trade with each other here. However, these towns werestruck severely after the Black Death. People lived in towns were much easier to be infected by the disease because of the poor sanitary condition.Thus, people abandoned many townsout of safety(Routt, 2011). As a result, trade was heavilyhindered, and there was no central location for people to meet and trade.


V. Conclusion

The Black Death was the terror of the MiddleAges. It affected almost every aspect of life in Europe. And where the plague struck, nothing could be the same. Millions of people died in this period. While some believe the Black Death serves as a force of natural selection and sees the rebirth of a physically-stronger human society. Others insist the epidemic destroys traditional ways of material and spiritual life, social and economic structures in Europe. In any case, the massive damage of the Black Death can’t he denied, but some of the changes caused by this terror turned out to be conducive to the development of society and human races. That’s why people always say: Every cloud has a silver lining.



Works Cited

Sharon, N. DeWitte. Mortality Risk and Survival in the Aftermath of theMedieval BlackDeath. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96513. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096513

Samuel, K. Cohn JR.The Black Death: End of a ParadigmAmerican Historical Review. June 2002, Vol. 107 Issue 3, p703-738. 36p. 21 Graphs.

Adler, Philip J. World Civilizations.America: Wadsworth,2000.Print

Boccaccio, Giovanni. “The Black Death, 1348 .”Eye Witness History.,n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2012. <http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/plague.htm>.

Byrne, Joseph Patrick. Encyclopedia of the Black Death. Santa Barbara: Clif, 2012. Print

Kelly, John. The Great Mortality: An Intimate History Of The Black Death, The MostDevastating Plague Of All Time. New York: Harper Collins, 2005.Print.

Kohn, George.Encyclopedia of plague and pestilence: from ancient times to the present. New York:Infobase Publishing, 2008. Print

Tatoro. Suffering in Paradise: The Bubonic Plague in English Literature from More to Milton. Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press, 2005, P26. Print.

Routt, David. “The Economic Impact of the Black Death.”Economic History.N.p.,n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/Routt.Black.Death>.


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