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Today we have the benefit of hindsight. We know, as fourteenth-century people suspected, that the mortality caused by the bubonic plague of the Black Death was the worst demographic disaster in the history of the world. 

We also know that the mortality came to an end in the first outbreak soon after 1350; contemporaries could not have known this would happen - so far as they were concerned everyone might well die.


Some treated each day as if it were their last: moral and sexual codes were broken, while the marriage market was revitalised by those who had lost partners in the plague.


We also know that the plague returned regularly, first in 1361 and then in the 1370s and 1380s and, as an increasingly urban disease, right through until the Great Plague of 1665 in London. But by around 1670 it disappeared from England for over two centuries until a number of outbreaks occurred either side of 1900.


It was not until these modern outbreaks that the bacillus was identified and connection between rats and plague discovered. Despite all their best efforts people in the historic period had no remedy against the mysterious plague, except as 
Daniel Defoe put it, to run away from it.


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