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Death is inevitable; unfortunately we do not have the privilege of knowing when or how we will die. However, in today’s society we are notified of outbreaks and epidemics that put us at a higher risk so that we can take precaution. In the 14th Century when the Black Death, Bubonic Plague, occurred there were many things that had not developed yet. Today, we still have epidemics but they are often kept under control by medication or seclusion. The Black Death was so devastating that it affected everything including art, religion, the economy, and culture. The Black Death was no more devastating than the plagues we have today, most of the fear comes from the unknown.
The news, radio, music, and television commercials do a great job using logos, ethos, and pathos to inform us about current epidemics. Many of the things we see on social media attempt to persuade us to make better decisions, in order to avoid what is characterized as the current epidemic: HIV/AIDS. Prevention, medication, and awareness help reduce mortality rates for most of the diseases we currently have. However, access is to treatment if the disease in contracted is limited and is often unaffordable. Today we quarantine people who have infectious diseases like Ebola, to help protect the lives of others. According to The Black Death Transformed (2003), in 14th Century Europe people who were not sick stayed in their homes in an attempt to escape the plague. People became more aware of their personal hygiene and eating habits during the time of the Black Death.
There were many lives lost during the Black Death, and although it was devastating, it offered some a better life. The people were governed by feudalism. People of lower classes (peasants) were able to take advantage of a labor shortage and request higher wages and better working conditions. People who were considered peasants were able to become free and buy their own land (Álvarez-Nogal & De La Escosura, 2013). When lords attempted to revert back to pre-Black Death there were revolts. We don’t have a feudal government but there are still classes.
The Black Death not only had an effect on the economy but on the church as well. People turned away from the church when they realized that religion did not stop the spread of the disease. Many of the priests died and there was no one to lead the church services so they just stopped. Jewish people were targeted but when the Black Death came they were blamed for poisoning the water. Many people felt like God was punishing them for their sins. Religions are not targeted as the causes for disease in today’s society but often used to find peace/reasoning with the outcome of disease contraction.
In retrospect the Black Death was able to spread so rapidly due to the lack of hygiene, technology, and knowledge in the 14th Century (Waterman, 2016). Today, we are continuously expanding our technology and knowledge and still don’t have a cure for many diseases that cause death. People are not panicking because the news and other social media outlets are not characterizing these diseases as plagues. There are many possible reasons why but one of the main reasons is because of whom the diseases primarily affect: people with lower socioeconomic statuses. Regardless, people are more knowledgeable about diseases and prevention than back in the 14th century.
Álvarez-Nogal, C., & De La Escosura, L. P. (2013). The rise and fall of Spain (1270-1850). Economic History Review, 66(1), 1-37. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2012.00656.x
The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe. (2003). American Historical Review, 108(5), 1511.
Waterman, H. (2016). A Profile of Plague. Discover, 37(8), 78-80.