The Black Death: The Plague...
The plague, also known as the Black Death, was a plague epidemic that devastated Europe between 1347 and 1352, killing approximately 25-30 million people. The disease, which is carried by fleas in rodent animals, first appeared in Central Asia and spread to the Crimea through Mongol warriors and traders. The plague, carried by the rats on the Genoese merchant ships coming out of the Black Sea, entered Europe via Italy.
While two-thirds of patients die, between 30 and 50% of the population in affected areas are thought to have died from the plague. The death toll was so high that it had serious consequences for medieval European society. The lack of sufficient number of farmers led to the abolition of serfdom, a general questioning of authority and riots, and the abandonment of many towns and villages. It would take nearly 200 years for the population of Europe to return to its pre-plague state.
Cause and Symptoms
Plague is a disease caused by bacillus bacteria and is carried and spread by parasitic fleas, especially in rodents such as brown sewer rats. There are three types of plague, and all three were probably seen in the plague epidemic known as the Black Death. Bubonic plague, most common in the 14th century epidemic, caused a heavy swelling in the groin and armpits, namely the lymph nodes, and was named the Black Death because of its repulsive black color. These black wounds, which could often cover the entire body, were caused by internal bleeding known as bubo, after which the bubonic plague was named. Severe fever and joint pains were among the other symptoms. If bubonic plague is left untreated, 30 to 75% of infections were fatal, usually within 72 hours. The other two types of plague, pulmonary and septicemic plague, are generally fatal in all cases.
Spread of the Plague
In Europe, the 14th century was considered a disaster even before the Black Death came. The earliest plague had hit livestock, and crops were scarce due to overexploitation of the land. This caused two great famines in Europe in 1316 and 1317. The tremors created by the wars, especially the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) between England and France, continued. Between 1000-1300, even the weather is getting worse; Unusual air temperature cycles heralded the "Mini Ice Age", where the winters were steadily cold and long, the growing season and ultimately the harvest diminished.
Medieval doctors had no idea about microscopic organisms such as bacteria, so they were desperate for treatment. In the prevention phase, where they had the best chance of helping people, they tried to be prevented by very poor health measures compared to modern standards. Another useful strategy would have been to quarantine areas, but because people panicked from wherever the plague had occurred, they unknowingly carried the disease with them and spread it farther, with the rats taking care of the rest.
There were so many deaths and bodies that the authorities did not know what to do with them. Carriages overflowing with corpses had become a common sight in Europe. The only precaution that could be taken was to stay where you were, avoid people, and pray. In 1352, the disease finally wore off. However, it would reappear during the remaining medieval period with milder epidemics.
Number of Deaths
Despite spreading unchecked, the Black Death affected some areas much more heavily than others. The fact that medieval writers and some contemporary writers show this fact with exaggerated death numbers shows that it is very difficult to calculate the total number of deaths. Some cities, such as Milan, managed to avoid major impacts altogether, but other cities, such as Florence, were razed to the ground.
Florence lost 50,000 of its 85,000 population. According to Boccaccio, this number was unrealistically close to 100,000. In Paris, it is said that 800 people are buried every day when the disease is at its peak. However, other places were somehow able to stay away from this massacre. About 30% of the population in the affected area died, but some historians paint a picture of close to 50%.
This was probably the case in the worst-affected cities. Therefore, the number of deaths in Europe between 1347-1352 is thought to be between 25 and 30 million. The population of Europe, on the other hand, would not reach its pre-1347 state until about 1550.