Black Death Criticism

This essay has a total of 3621 words and 19 pages.

Black Death

Since the reign of Emperor Justinian in 542 A.D., man has one unwelcome organism along for
the ride, Yersinia pestis. This is the bacterium more commonly know as the Black Death,
the plague. Plague is divided into three biotypes, each associated with one of three major
pandemics occurring in history. Each of these biotypes are then divided into three
distinct types, classified by method of infection.


The most widely know is bubonic, an infection of plague that resides in the lymph nodes,
causing them to swell. The Black Death of the 14th century was mainly of this type.
Bubonic plague is commonly spread through fleas that have made a meal from an infected
Rattus rattus.


The most dangerous type of plague is pneumonic. It can be spread through aerosol droplets
released through coughs, sneezes, or through fluid contact. It may also become a secondary
result of a case of untreated bubonic or septicemic plague. Although not as common as the
bubonic strain, it is more deadly. It has an untreated mortality rate on nearly 100%, as
compared to 50% untreated mortality for bubonic plague. It attacks the respiratory track,
furthering the cycle.


The third type of plague is septemic. It is spread by direct bodily fluid contact. It may
also develop as a secondary result of untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague.


A LITTLE HISTORY As mentioned before, the most known incidence of bubonic plague was in
14th century Europe. In 1346 reports of a terrible pestilence in China, spreading through
Mesopotamia and Asia Minor had reached Europe, but caused no concern until two years
later. In January of 1348 the plague had reached Marseille in France and Tunis in Africa.
By the end of the next year the plague had reached as far as Norway, Scotland, Prussia,
Iceland, and Italy. In 1351 the infection had spread to include Russia.


The plague was an equal opportunity killer. In Avignon nine bishops were killed, King
Alfonso XI of Castile succumbed, and peasants died wherever they lay. Though the plague
had, for the most part, ceased less than ten years after it started, it killed nearly one
third of the European population. In many towns the dead outnumbered the living. Bodies
piled in the streets faster than nuns, monks, and relatives could bury them. Many bodies
were interred in mass graves, overflowing with dead, or dumped into nearby rivers.
Domesticated cats and dogs, along with wolves, dug dead out of shallow graves, and
sometimes attacked those still living. Many animals did either from plague or lack of
care. Henry Knighton noted more than 5,000 dead sheep in one field alone.


The death of a very large portion of the work force aided those that were still living.
The sheer scarcity of workers enabled the remainder to make demands of higher wages and
better conditions. Farms located on poor soil were abandoned because the demand for grain
had decreased, enabling fewer farms, located on the better tracts of land to feed the
population.


For a more in-depth look at the effect that plague had on the literature of the time
please visit my other page on the bubonic plague. It is a copy of my research paper that I
did as a high school senior. I know people will plagarize it, and I really can't stop you.
But I do have two requests. First- don't plagarize it and repost it on the internet. Its
one thing if you lie to a teacher and say something is yours, its another thing to lie to
the whole world about it. Secondly- tell me what grade you got on it... You can find it
here.


There have been a few encounters with bubonic plague in modern times. In the American and
Canadian west, from Texas and Oklahoma in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, it is
most often transmitted from species of squirrels. The last occurrence of transmissions
from rats to people, or people to people in the United States occurred in 1924 in Los
Angeles. In that epidemic there were 32 cases of pneumonic plague with 31 fatalities.
Since then there have been around 16 cases a year in the United States, most connected
with rock squirrels and its common flea Oropsylla montana.


In the years of World War II the Japaneese army formed a special biological warfare
division. This unit worked on developing a method to deliver the plague bacteria to the
civilian population of China. They tested the effectiveness of the plague as a weapon of
war first on prisoners of war, then on unsuspecting civilians. In their first tests they
confined a small group of prisioners in a room with thousands of plague infested fleas.
The moratlity rate in these experiments were somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60
percent.


The next step was to release the plague on the general population of Manchuria. This was
accomplished by planes flying over cities and villages and releasing huge amounts of
plague infested fleas over the town. When this proved to be an inaccurate way of spreading
the disease, and would periodiocally result in the infection of the air crew, another
method was devised. The infected fleas were packed into the shell of a conventional bomb
and dropped, exploding just over the targeted towns. While exact figures are not know, it
is known that these attacks killed many people and caused wide-spread terror in the towns.


The Black Death: Bubonic Plague
In the early 1330s an outbreak of deadly bubonic plague occurred in China. Plague mainly
affects rodents, but fleas can transmit the disease to people. Once people are infected,
they infect others very rapidly. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph
glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes spots on the
skin that are red at first and then turn black.


Since China was one of the busiest of the world's trading nations, it was only a matter of
time before the outbreak of plague in China spread to western Asia and Europe. In October
of 1347, several Italian merchant ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea, one of the
key links in trade with China. When the ships docked in Sicily, many of those on board
were already dying of plague. Within days the disease spread to the city and the
surrounding countryside. An eyewitness tells what happened:


"Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, the people quickly drove the Italians
from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers
abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying.
Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon
deserted, as they were stricken, too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no
one to give them a Christian burial."


The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. The Italian writer Boccaccio said its victims often

"ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise."

By the following August, the plague had spread as far north as England, where people
called it "The Black Death" because of the black spots it produced on the skin. A terrible
killer was loose across Europe, and Medieval medicine had nothing to combat it.


In winter the disease seemed to disappear, but only because fleas--which were now helping
to carry it from person to person--are dormant then. Each spring, the plague attacked
again, killing new victims. After five years 25 million people were dead--one-third of
Europe's people.


Even when the worst was over, smaller outbreaks continued, not just for years, but for
centuries. The survivors lived in constant fear of the plague's return, and the disease
did not disappear until the 1600s.


Medieval society never recovered from the results of the plague. So many people had died
that there were serious labor shortages all over Europe. This led workers to demand higher
wages, but landlords refused those demands. By the end of the 1300s peasant revolts broke
out in England, France, Belgium and Italy.


The disease took its toll on the church as well. People throughout Christendom had prayed
devoutly for deliverance from the plague. Why hadn't those prayers been answered? A new
period of political turmoil and philosophical questioning lay ahead.


DISASTER STRIKES
Estimated population of Europe from 1000 to 1352.
1000 38 million
1100 48 million
1200 59 million
1300 70 million
1347 75 million
1352 50 million

25 million people died in just under five years between 1347 and 1352.

Europe, 1348
Hundreds of thousands of people - men. women and children - are dying in every country in
Europe, struck down by an epidemic of an apparently incurable plague which the healthy and
afflicted alike call the Black Death".


Not since the sixth century has such an epidemic attacked Europe. Spreading from Asia. and
carried by rat-fleas via the ports of the Black Sea. the plague takes two forms. Bubonic
plague is seen in the swellings, or buboes. That inflate the lymph nodes at the neck,
armpit or groin, while the pneumonic" plague affects the lungs. and vic tims choke on
their own blood.


The plague has stunned Europe, and everywhere people are desperate for an explanation.
Some blame invisible particles carried in the wind, others talk of poisoned wells. Many
inevitably, blame the Jews. Immediate responses differ widely. Some choose to challenge
the plague by bouts of riotous living, others seek protection by barring their doors and
living as recluses. Neither method has halted the disease. Others have left home, seeking
safety in the remote countryside, but often they too have fallen ill. Attempts to bar
villages, towns, even whole cities, to sufferers have all failed. The plague moves on.


The outbreak has shattered communities. Families havebeen set against each other- the well
rejecting the sick. Essential services have collapsed; law and order, with so many
administrators struck down, barely exist in some areas. A sense of panic pervades Europe
and everyone, it appears, is struggling only for his own survival. Properties stand empty,
de serted by desperate owners; the sick die alone, for even the most deoted doctors cannot
save them: corpses are simply dumped in the street or buried in mass graves. Some depraved
creatures, them selves already infected, break into houses and threaten to contaminate all
within unless bribed to leave. Agriculture is at a standstill. Crops wither in the fields;
cattle wander untended.


Doctors do what they can, but the plague seems irresistible. Even the most expert
physicians can do little more than help strengthen people's resolve and build morale.


Some recommend the burning of aromatic woods and herbs; others suggest special diets,
courses of bleeding, new postures for sleeping and many other remedies. The very rich are
trying medicines made of gold and pearls. The terrible truth is that nothing seems to
work. Flight is the best option, and if one cannot fly, then all that remains is
resignation and prayer.


Continues for 10 more pages >>




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