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Black Death of Europe


Black Death of Europe Presentation created by Robert L. Martinez Primary Content Source: Wadsworth Comprehensive World History, 3rd Ed. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Black Death of Europe

Black Death of Europe
  • Presentation created by Robert L. Martinez
  • Primary Content Source Wadsworth Comprehensive
    World History, 3rd Ed.
  • Images as cited.
The Black Death of the mid-14th century was the
worst natural disaster in European history,
annihilating Europes population and causing
economic, social, political, and cultural mayhem.
The Bubonic plague was spread by black rats
infested with fleas who were host to the deadly
bacterium Yersinia pestis.
Symptoms of bubonic plague include high fever,
aching joints, swelling of the lymph nodes, and
dark blotches caused by bleeding beneath the skin.
The Bubonic plague killed approximately 50
percent of its victims.
The Black Death was the first major epidemic
disease to strike Europe since the seventh
century, an absence that helps explain medieval
Europes remarkable population growth.
This plague originated in Asia. The arrival of
Mongol troops in the mid-13th century became the
means for the spread of the plague, as flea
infested rats carrying bubonic plague spread with
the movement of the Mongols.
Traveling caravans brought the plague to Caffa,
on the Black Sea, in 1346. The plague reached
Europe in October of 1347 when Genoese merchants
brought it from Caffa to the island of Sicily,
off the coast of Southern Italy.
It quickly spread to southern Italy and southern
France by the end of 1347. Usually, the diffusion
of the Black Death followed commercial trade
routes. In 1348, the plague spread through Spain,
France, and the Low Countries and into Germany.
By the end of that year, it had moved to England,
ravaging it in 1349. By the end of 1349, the
plague had reached northern Europe and
Eastern Europe and Russia were affected by
1351,although mortality rates were never as high
in eastern Europe as they were in western and
central Europe.
Italy was especially hard hit. Its crowded cites
suffered losses of 60 percent. In northern
France, farming villages suffered mortality rates
of 30 percent. In England and Germany, entire
villages simply disappeared.
In Germany, of approximately 170,000 inhabited
locations, only 130,000 were left by the end of
the 14th century.
It has been estimated that the European
population declined by 25 to 50 percent between
1347 and 1351.
Not until the mid-sixteenth century did Europe
begin to regain its thirteenth century population
At the time, many felt that the plague had either
been sent by God as a punishment for humans sins
or caused by the devil.
Flagellants resorted to extreme measures to gain
Gods forgiveness. Groups of flagellants wandered
from town to town, flogging each other with whips
to win the forgiveness of a God who they felt had
sent the plague to punish humans for their sinful
The Catholic Church became alarmed when
flagellants groups began to kill Jews and attack
the clergy who opposed them.
Pope Clement VI condemned the flagellants in
October 1349 and urged the public authorities to
crush them. By 1350, most flagellant movements
had been dissolved.
An outbreak of anti-Semitism accompanied the
Black Death pandemic. Jews were accused of
causing the plague by poisoning town wells.
In Germany, more than sixty major Jewish
communities were exterminated by 1351. Many Jews
fled eastward to Russia and especially to Poland,
where the king offered them protection.
Eastern Europe became home to large Jewish
The death of so many people in the 14th century
caused severe economic consequences. Trade
drastically declined.
A shortage of workers caused a dramatic rise in
the price of labor, while the decline in the
number of people lowered the demand for food,
resulting in falling prices. Landlords were now
paying more for labor at the same time that their
rents or income was declining.
Concurrently, the decline in the number of
peasants after the Black Death made it easier for
some peasants to convert their labor services to
free themselves from serfdom.
The lords attempted to impose wage restrictions
and reinstate old forms of labor service. New
governmental taxes were imposed on labor. Peasant
complaints became widespread and soon gave rise
to rural revolts.
In 1358, a peasant revolt known as the Jacquerie
broke out in northern France. The outburst of
peasant anger led to brutal clashes. Castles were
burned and nobles murdered.
The Jacquerie failed as the upper classes
combined forces, and savagely massacred the
rebels, and ended the revolt.
The English Peasants Revolt of 1381 was the
biggest of all. After the Black Death, the
English peasants enjoyed improved conditions,
with greater freedom and higher wages and lower
rents. Aristocrats fought back with legislation
to lower wages and an attempt to reinstitute old
feudal dues.
The chief cause of revolt was the monarchys
attempt to raise revenues by imposing a flat tax
on each adult member of the population.
Peasant"s Revolt
Peasants in eastern England, the wealthiest part
of the country, refused to pay the tax and
forcibly expelled the collectors from their
The revolt was initially successful as the rebels
burned down the manor houses of aristocrats,
lawyers, and government officials and murdered
several important officials, including the
archbishop of Canterbury.
After the peasants marched on London, King
Richard II promised to accept the rebels demands
if they would return to their homes. They
accepted the kings word and began to disperse,
but the king reneged and brutally crushed the
rebels. However, the poll tax was eliminated.
King Richard II
The revolts of the 14th century had introduced a
new element to European life the dynamic of
social unrest.