Black Death — Causes & Conditions
– 90% of the people worked the land
– due to growth in cities & in food production, the population doubled between 1000 – 1300
– more people to feed than food available or jobs to employ them
– crop failures 1315 – 1317 = famine
– decades of overpopulation, economic depression, famine, bad health = vulnerable population
– bubonic plague (Black Death), discolored the body followed trade routes
– Sicily in 1347 through Venice to Spain to Southern France and into Northern Europe
– May have killed 40% of population of western Europe
– Transmitted by rats or human-borne fleas – reached the lungs, spread through sneezing
– Doctors lacked knowledge – no defense
– Inspired pessimism, pre-occupation with death
– “a corruption in the atmosphere” caused it, caused by an earthquake (poison fumes)
– used amulets to protect against it
– some attempted to fight it through moderation, others seclusion or gave into their passions
– fanatics beat themselves for a ritual penance until they bled (bringing divine intervention) – this may have contributed to the disease – Church finally banned the practice
– Jews were blamed
– Whole villages vanished
– Decrease in workers, wages increased
– Food production prices fell – artisan made goods increased, rents declined
– Farm land was converted to sheep herds (for wool) — less # of people to herd sheep or leased their land (left farming)
– Some forced peasants to stay on their land & froze wages (led to Jack in France & peasant revolt in England)
– Skilled artisans prospered – a desire for their goods increased, workers available to do the work decreased
– Life at its worst, people wanted the best, jewelry, furs, silks
– Wealth poured into the cities
– Church lost money from land holdings but gained through religious services for the dead
– Shift in power, cities were forced to recognize guilds & journeymen in government – church weakened – kings used situation to centralize their power – plague killed many of the clergy (1/3???) – church lost some support