The Bubonic Plague, aka The Black Death
What It Was:
- a plague that wiped out 1/3 of Europe's population.
- a person might be in full health one day, and die miserably within 24 hours.
- Recurrence of plague thoughout the 14th century (1300s).
Short Term Effects:
- population decline.
- normal rituals/ordinary routines were thrown out the window as panic ruled.
- Attacks on the Jews, who were thought to be spreading the pestilence (though we know nowadays, of course, that it was fleas on rats, not Jews).
- Rational theology (the study of God) was replaced with mysticism and fear of God's wrath.
- fear, horror, and panic as people died rapidly.
Long Term Effects:
- Decline of Latin as a language.
- rise of vernacular (spoken) tongues as a medium for serious writing.
- Art: sterner portrayals of religious figures/scenes; death was a prominent theme.
- Social tensions were intensified.
- economy (specifically, wages/price patterns) declined sharply due to fewer workers and people who needed work; this differed from place to place.
- Anticlericalism: priests/monks died and were replaced with the less competent, less trained.
- Saints were featured in church life more (ex.: St. Sebastion, St. Roch).
A lot of people know what the Black Death was: a plague that wiped out quite a bit of Europe's population sometime centuries ago. A lot of people DON'T know what the Black Death caused: it was one of the reasons English became a popular written language. English was spoken at this time, of course, but no one wrote in it; the Black Death changed that. Latin died, and English replaced it.
History's funny that way. Can you wrap your head around that? That the language you speak and read and write every day only came about as a serious written language because of a plague? And not just English, but Italian and several other languages, as well: some of the languages spoken at the time became written languages.
It also was one of the reasons the Renaissance came about. And the Renaissance -- and consequently the Enlightenment -- is pretty much why we aren't also English peasants right now. When the Bubonic Plague came about, people started reverting to Roman ways. Some of the ideas you are familiar with, it being part of American government and all: consent of the governed, certain unalienable rights, etc. And these theories are popular in European thinking as well: probably other countries, though I don't know to what extent.
Here's a song from historyteachers on the Bubonic Plague. Historyteachers, for those who don't know, is a youtube channel that makes historical parodies. This one is of the song Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. Historyteachers saved my neck before my AP exam last May -- not a replacement for studying, but makes that studying stick in your head a little more.
Have a blessed day, and hope you've found this interesting!
[this is literally copied directly from notes I took in AP World History last year, all except the last two paragraphs. But the bullet points I randomly found in my notebook and copied here, with my shorthand notation removed so you can understand it. And, obviously, the youtube video is from youtube, not me.]