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The Black Death


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Title: The Black Death

The Black Death
True or False?
  • The Black Death was another name for the plague.
  • It was spread by dogs.
  • It originally came from China.
  • Everyone who got the Black Death died.
  • Priests were more likely than farm workers to get
    the disease.
  • About one tenth of the population of Europe died
    of the Black Death during the second half of the
    14th century.

Waiting for the Black Death
  • In the summer of 1348, the people of England were
    waiting for something to arrive, and they were
  • What could it be? An army? Fierce invaders? No,
    it was a disease the Black Death. This terrible
    illness had been spreading across Europe for
    several months, and thousands had already died.
  • No one knew what caused it, or how it could be

The plague arrives
  • Historians think that the plague arrived in the
    south of England during the summer of 1348.
    During the following autumn it spread quickly
    through the south west. Few villages escaped.
    Churchyards were filled and new pits had to be
    dug to bury all the bodies.
  • The plague spread quickly during the winter of
    1348-1349 to the north of England. By 1350,
    nearly the whole of Britain was infected with the

What were the symptoms of the bubonic plague?
What did people think caused the Black Death? And
  • There were lots of ideas around in the Middle
    Ages about what might be causing the Black Death.
  • Some of them were
  • God it was a punishment for something people
    had done wrong.
  • Bad air (miasma)
  • Jews poisoning the wells
  • Contagion a sick person coming into contact
    with a healthy person

What Really caused the plague?
  • This is your answer!

The Oriental Rat Flea!
How was the plague transmitted?
  • We now know that the most common form of the
    Black Death was the BUBONIC PLAGUE. This disease
    was spread by fleas which lived on the black rat.
    The fleas sucked the rats blood which contained
    the plague germs. When the rat died the fleas
    jumped on to humans and passed on the deadly

This girl has bubonic plague. The large swelling
is called a buboe.
Were there other kinds of plague?
  • Yes. As well as bubonic plague, there was also
    pneumonic plague (which infected the lungs) and
    sceptacaemic plague (which infected the blood).
  • These were more deadly, but much less common.

So was there a cure?
  • As we learned in the last lesson, people in the
    Middle Ages did not know about bacteria. As a
    result, they did not know how to stop the Black
    Death from spreading.
  • What kind of cures might a medieval doctor or
    apothecary have suggested for someone showing the
    symptoms of the plague?

Do you think any of these medieval cures for
plague would have helped?
  • Apply a dried toad to the swelling so that the
    poison will be drawn out and into the body of the
    toad. When it is full a new one should be
  • Let your house be clean and make a fire.
  • Close all doors and windows.
  • Bleed the patient and make them vomit.
  • Sing hymns, pray and beat yourself until you

How did people behave during the black death?
  • The Black Death made many people change the way
    they lived. Some tried to help those who were
    suffering. Others put themselves first.
  • Those who were not afraid of the disease spent
    time with the sick, dug the plague pits or went
    around the towns and villages collecting bodies
    these people often died themselves of the plague.
  • Many other people decided to drink, feast, gamble
    and buy expensive clothes. Why do you think they
    did this?

The black death also had an impact on art what
do you think the message is of this picture?
So how many people died?
  • At the beginning of 1348, there were about 4
    million people in England.
  • By 1351 there were only about 2.5 million left.
  • As in Europe, about one person in every three
    died. Amongst priests, the death rate was much
    higher why do you think this was?

Social changes
  • Because so many people died, the Black Death
    brought about other changes in English society.
  • Would peasants (villeins and freemen) who
    survived be better or worse off after the Black

Social Changes
  • For peasants who survived, the future looked
    good. Because there were fewer workers, they
    could demand higher wages.
  • Some villeins now had the chance to break free
    from their lord and be paid for their work with
    so few men available, there was usually someone
    desperate for workers who would employ them.
  • But the king (Edward III) put a stop to high
    wages by making a law that no peasant could be
    paid more than they earned before the Black

So was that it?
  • NO - The plague returned to England five more
    times before 1400.
  • The last major outbreak in England was in
  • However, its not all doom and gloom! A cure has
    now been discovered and if you are unfortunate
    enough to catch bubonic plague today (which is
    very unlikely if you live in England!) you can be
    successfully treated.

  • You probably saw some of the recent posters and
    leaflets that told people how to protect
    themselves from the swine flu virus.
  • Imagine you are a medieval person who has been
    asked to design a poster or a leaflet showing
    people how to protect themselves against the
    Black Death. You should try to include both
    written advice and pictures.
  • Remember that medieval people did not know about
    germs look back and think about the kind of
    advice that they might have given