If there is one part of life that humans have trouble overcoming it is natural disasters. They are unexpected, incurable, and often unconquerable. One specific type of natural disaster is that of sickness. Plagues are disastrous evil afflictions of an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality ( Merriam-Webster ). A historically famous plague in the fourteenth and fifteenth century is the Black or Bubonic Plague. The social and economic affects of the plague in Europe were detrimental to the population and economy.
The Black Plague is an Oriental Plague marked by inflammatory boils and tumors of the glands. Such break outs were found in no other febrile disease ( Hecker, pg 2). Inflammatory boils often appeared and black spots which indicated decomposition of the body ultimately appeared on the skin. Another symptom of the plague were imposthumes opening with a discharge of offensive matter ( Hecker, pg 5). Due to the significant pain and rapid spread of the plague medicine was ultimately never found, although attempted.
People engulfed in the plague died within three days of acquiring it. The plague began in 1333, fifteen years before it broke out in Europe (Hecker, pg 12-13). Many natural disasters were engulfing the Asian countries; floods, famine, droughts, and the plague. A drought and famine had crucified the country which was commenced by floods of the Kiang and Hoai Rivers. After all of these disastrous events still an earthquake, continued floods, and famine ended in 1347. The Asian island Cyprus broke out in an Earthquake leaving it a desolate.
The earthquake released a poisonous odor which over powered the people of Cyprus practically exterminating the population. This odor is believed to be the beginnings of the Black Plague (Hecker, pg 13). Due to the fact that China was one of the busiest trading centers in the world it was only a matter of time before the bacteria found its way to Europe. In October 1347, Italian sea merchants were traveling from Asia back to Italy. Arriving in Sicily the crew found itself suffering from an indescribable disease.
An unknown eye witness accounts details of the immediate stress the plague brought to Europe. "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" ( http://www.byu.edu )Every social class, ethnicity, gender and age group was affected. The plague successfully exterminated one third of Europe’s population from 1347- 1352, only five years after its arrival.
In Germany and the Northern Kingdoms it was known as the Black Death. In Italy it was known as la mortalega grande or Great Mortality. The disease did not completely disappear until the early 17th century leaving the people in fear of its return for centuries after its disappearance. Peasant Revolts, Economic imbalances, and an inefficient work force, as well as deep effects on the Christian Church developed because of the Black Plague (http://www.byu.edu ). Some of the estimated mortality rates are staggeringly high.
In Florence, 60,000 people and in Venice 16,000 people. While in Marseilles lost 16,000 in one month along with Sienas 70,000. The Black Plague affected every part of the European life and culture with unbearable repercussions. The Black Plague was a combination of bubonic, pneumonic and septicemia plague strains. It was the first epidemic of the 2nd plague pandemic with cycles of outbreaks.
( Zeigler, pg 1) Many details of the plague were described in The Decameron by Boccaccio. There were different opinions of lifestyles during the plague. The first was to avoid all luxuries allowing no contact with the outside world and avoiding news of sickness and death practically living in denial. The second was to indulge in wines and other types of luxury abandoning all responsibility and living life care free.
The Decameron is not the only piece of literature that was popular in reflecting on new values; the Canterbury Tales too, expressed a perspective of life during the Black Plague. ( Gottfried, pg 80). Many corporate cooperation deteriorated being replaced by individualism which was more pronounced because of the plague. It was generally directed towards self-gain and avaricious behavior. Communities and old traditions were shattered by individualism which relaxed relationships between families. “The Black Death also brought a new sense of urgency” ( Gottfried, pg 81).
Work hours were extended into the night because of the need for wages and because merchants sought.