Wednesday, 12 December 2007
12:50:42 AM (GMT)
Edited version: please continue to critique
In the 1300’s, Europe experienced one of the greatest tragedies of all history.
Originally called the Great Pestilence, the Great Mortality, and still called the
bubonic plague , this disease is known for its boils, which were black color because
of dried blood from internal bleeding under the skin. The boils appeared in the neck,
armpits, and groin. Victims had symptoms which included, fever, chills and diarrhea.
Now, the plague that took one third of Europe’s population is known as the Black
The doctors at the time were virtually useless, although few openly admitted it. The
doctors either escaped the area, or charged extremely large sums for their services
(Corzine, 56-61). None of the many theories concerning the cause of the Black Death
were correct. Some believed that the plague traveled in a poisonous cloud of gas,
while others believed that people had disrupted their four humors, which made them
unhealthy. One theory was that God had used the stars to show his wrath on earth
(Corzine, 56-61). Historians now theorize that fleas had carried Yersinia pestis, a
bacterium, to Europe through trade routes, and this officially disproves all of the
theories of the doctors (Secrets...).
During these desperate times, everyone looked to God. Flagellants roamed around
when all faith in the church was lost. People would huddle around, and an elaborate
ceremony would be preformed. The men would be whipped so God would forgive them, and
they had to follow a series of rules. Eventually, these flagellants caused chaos.
This chaos caused the Pope of the time, Pope Clement VI, to ban them. In the panic of
the Black Death, people also blamed the Jewish. They believed that the Jewish people
had poisoned the wells and caused the plague, although they drank from the same
wells. Without any common sense that the Jewish people would not poison themselves as
well, people burned and hunted down the Jews. Looking for answers in God eventually
led to violence and chaos (Crozine, 66).
Although everyone died regardless of wealth, all of the victims tried to fight the
plague. During the Black Death, it was believed that the more expensive the item, the
better it will help the healing process. Because of this theory, the wealthy drank
expensive potions. These potions included expensive items such as powdered emeralds
and quicksilver, which is also known as mercury. Mercury is poisonous, and some
historians are not certain whether the rich died from the poisoning of their
expensive healing items, or because of the sickness itself (Corzine, 64).
The poor also tried to stay alive. They had methods of healing different from the
rich. At first they would pray. After the praying had failed, they would buy charms,
amulets, and perform other magical rituals. One practice included placing a frog on
the boil of the patient. If the frog burst, then another live frog would be placed on
the boil. A frog that did not burst meant that the patient would die. Regardless of
whether or not the frog burst, the patient would die. Other methods of healing did
not work either (Corzine 66-67).
There is a mystery in the Black Death. When looking at the survivors, it is noted
some had very close contact with victims but never got ill. Could some people have
been immune to the plague? Startling as it may be, the bacteria Yersinia pestis
attacks the human the same way HIV does (Secrets...). If history repeats itself, then
a question that pops up is whether or not HIV and AIDS will kill one third of the
human population as the plague in the 1300s did. But maybe, if there were people
immune to the bubonic plague in history, then there will be a gene that allows people
now to be immune to AIDS and HIV.
The bubonic plague, also know as the “Great Pestilence,” the “Great
Mortality,” and more notably the Black Death, killed one third of Europe’s human
population, mostly because doctors at the time were useless and the methods of the
time were useless as well. With both doctors and remedies failing, people wondered if
this was a form of God’s wrath, and Flagellants roamed the area, only to be banned
by the Pope for causing violence (Secrets..., Corzine). Hopefully, the next “Black
Death” will never occur, and if it does, the methods of healing will more
Last edited: 12 December 2007