The Effects of the Plague on Fourteenth Century Europe and Medieval Man

2854 WordsDec 13, 200512 Pages
The 14th century was an era of catastrophes. Some of them were man-made, such as the Hundred Years' War. However, there were two natural disasters either of which would have been enough to throw medieval Europe into real "Dark Ages". The Black Death that followed on the heels of the Great Famine caused millions of deaths, and together they subjected the population of medieval Europe to tremendous struggles, leading many people to challenge old institutions and doubt traditional values. These calamities altered the path of European development in many areas. In his essay called An Essay on the Principle of Population , the English political economist Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), stated that since production increased arithmetically…show more content…
Caffa was probably not the only port the plague passed through en route to Europe, but it would forever be the place said to be where the pestilence originated. As soon as the citizens realized what horrible sickness had come from these ships, they expelled them from the port - but it was too late. Hundreds of the ships' rats had scurried down the mooring ropes tied to the docks. The fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis (oriental rat flea) that these infected vermin hosted were the real carriers of the disease. As the infected rats died off, the fleas would seek any other warm-blooded host; which included man. There are no accounts of life in the besieged port, but there is enough information to suggest what Caffa's final days may have looked like. John Kelly writes, "As the death toll mounted, the streets would have filled with feral animals feeding on human remains, drunken soldiers looting and raping, old women dragging corpses through rubble, and burning buildings spewing jets of flame and smoke into the Crimean sky. There would have been swarms of rodents with staggering gaits and a strange bloody froth around their snouts, piles of bodies staked like cordwood in public squares, and in every eye, a look of wild panic or dull resignation." The disease spread throughout Europe with astonishing speed and fatal consequences. By January 1348, the plague was in Marseilles. It reached Paris in the spring,

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