‘The Blue Sickness’: Impacts and Consequences of the Medieval ‘Black Death’

Medieval people called it “the blue sickness”, “La pest” (the pestilence), and “the Great Mortality”. NOTE: Hover mouse over highlighted text for further information. Introduction Beginning in 1347 and continuing for a full five years, a devastating plague swept Europe, leaving in its wake more than twenty million people dead. This epidemic now known as[…]

Petrarch’s Plague: Love, Death, and Friendship in a Medieval Time of Pandemic

How he chronicled, commemorated, and mourned his many loved ones who succumbed. This article, Petrarch’s Plague: Love, Death, and Friendship in a Time of Pandemic, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ The Italian poet and scholar Francesco Petrarch lived through[…]

The Post-Plague English Peasant Revolt of 1381

With the plague decimating the ranks of laborers, surviving workers rebelled against the crown’s higher taxes and restrictive labor laws. Introduction As a professor of medieval Europe, I’ve taught the bubonic plague, and how it contributed to the English Peasant Revolt of 1381. When a deadly disease started to spread, the most vulnerable and powerless[…]

The Fate of Religious Minorities during the Medieval Black Death

The plague swept through Christian Europe and Islamdom at roughly the same time – between 1347 and 1351. Pandemics are nothing new—they scythed through the ancient world as they did the pre-modern and, as we know to our grief and confusion, they are still mowing us down today. We might think that human nature is[…]

The Diary of Samuel Pepys during the Bubonic Plague in the 17th Century

He wrote of everything from daily death counts to quack remedies. Introduction In early April, writer Jen Miller urged New York Times readers to start a coronavirus diary. “Who knows,” she wrote, “maybe one day your diary will provide a valuable window into this period.” During a different pandemic, one 17th-century British naval administrator named[…]

Effects of the Black Death on Europe

The Plague ushered in a new understanding which found expression in movements such as the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance. Introduction The outbreak of plague in Europe between 1347-1352 CE – known as the Black Death – completely changed the world of medieval Europe. Severe depopulation upset the socio-economic feudal system of the time but[…]

How the Wealthy Reacted to the Medieval Bubonic Plague

The wealthy fled to the countryside, while the urban poor were forced to work on the front lines. Introduction Following the 1348 Black Death in Italy, the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio wrote a collection of 100 novellas titled, “The Decameron.” These stories, though fictional, give us a window into medieval life during the Black Death[…]

Religious Responses to the Black Death

People reacted with hopeful cures and responses based on religious belief. Introduction The Black Death of 1347-1352 CE is the most infamous plague outbreak of the medieval world, unprecedented and unequaled until the 1918-1919 CE flu pandemic in the modern age. The cause of the plague was unknown and, in accordance with the general understanding[…]

Medieval ‘Cures’ for the Black Death

Since no one knew what caused the disease, no cure was possible, but this did not stop people from trying what they could. Introduction The Black Death is the 19th-century CE term for the plague epidemic that ravaged Europe between 1347-1352 CE, killing an estimated 30 million people there and many more worldwide as it[…]

The Medieval Spread of the Bubonic Plague

The plague, named the Black Death by later historians, had a devastating effect on the European population in the 14th century. Introduction The diffusion of crops and pathogens, including epidemic diseases like the bubonic plague, often occured along trade routes. The bubonic plague – named the Black Death by later historians – was caused by[…]

The Black Death and Early Public Health Measures in the Middle Ages

With no accurate knowledge about the disease and the way it was spread, what could be done in the face of such horror? ‘Cito, Longe, Tarde.’ Hippocrates and Galen are colossal figures in the history of medicine, renowned for their wise and innovative advice on medical matters. When it came to plague, they offered similar guidance, rendered[…]

Tales from a Medieval Plague Pit

We can now catch tiny pieces of DNA from ancient diseases and look for clues about how their genes have changed over time. Introduction The Black Death is without a doubt one of the most famous infectious diseases in history. Sweeping across Asia and Europe during the mid-fourteenth century, it reduced European populations by as[…]

Medieval Economy: The Great Depression of the 14th Century

The economic decline was marked by a severe drop in population. By Dr. Murray N. RothbardHistorian and Economist Most people — historians not excepted — are tempted to think of economic and cultural progress as being continuous: in every century people are better off than in the one preceding. This comforting assumption had to be[…]

The Black Death’s Economic Impact and Contribution to the Renaissance

The Black Death struck in 1348, 1362, 1368, 1381, and continued even into the 18th century. 1348 The Black Death arrived on European shores in 1348. By 1350, the year it retreated, it had felled a quarter to half of the region’s population. In 1362, 1368, and 1381, it struck again—as it would periodically well[…]

Plagues of the Past

Many diseases have affected the outcomes of battles or the political leanings of a country, but few have had consequences on society that continue to be felt in the present age. The plague is one such disease and its most famous pandemic – the Black Death – has changed the history, culture, and science of[…]