Plague: the Term “Black Death”

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The term Black Death was not use to describe plague until the 1600 ( Thomas Streissguth). When there was another outbreak in England. Some reports claim the name arose because bleeding beneath the skin was so great in septicemic plague that it made victims limbs look black. Other say the term came into use because some plague sufferers tongues turn black.

Still other believer it came from the latin words Atra Mors, which were used to describe the plague ( Thomas Streissguth). Atra Mors means ” terrible death” or ” black death”. The deadly plague reigned everywhere, and once populous cities, because of the death of their inhabitants, now kept their gates firmly shut so that no one could break in and steal the possessions of the dead. Most rulers in Europe survived the plague because of better food and living conditions. In fact, only one king, Alfonso of castile the Alfonso of castile the English princess Joan’s father in law to be, died of plague in 1350 ( Thomas Streissguth).

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It happened while he was besieging the muslim stronghold of Gibraltar, spain. Other royal deaths included princess joan; eleanor of aragon; and king magnus of sweden’s two brothers hakon and knut.Next about the Black Death, the great plague of london raged from late 1664 to early 1666 ( Thomas Streissguth). It is estimated that it killed more than seventy-five thousand people. In September 1666, fire broke out in London and spread wildly,eventually burning over 80 percent of the city thirteen (Thomas Streissguth) thousand houses.

Many historians believe that the fire, which killed many of the city’s rats, helped end the plague. They died by the hundreds day and night. i , Agnolo di Tura, called the fat buried my five children with the black death ( Thomas Streissguth). But wait,the whole army was affected by the black death which overran the Tartars and killed thousands upon thousands everyday. All medical advice and attention was useless at this time.

The Tartars died as soon as the signs of disease appeared upon their bodies, swellings in the armpit or groin caused by coagulating humours thickening body liquids, followed by a putrid fever. The dying Tartars ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in the hope that intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. The black rat fleas and the disease they carried remained behind in the city of caffa, were they could hitch a ride westward to Europe.

The Black Death arrived in Europe by sea in October 1347 when 12 genoese trading ships docked at the sicilian port of messina after a long Journey through the Black Sea ( Thomas Streissguth). More about the Black Death, even before the “death ships” pulled into port at messina, many Europeans had heard rumors about a “Great Pestilence” that was carving a deadly path across the trade routes of the near and far East. Because they did not understand the biology of the disease, many people believed that the Black Death was a kind of divine punishment – retribution for sins against GOD such as greed, blasphemy, heresy, fornication and worldness. By this logic, the only way to overcome the plague was to win GOD’S forgiveness.

Some people believed that the way to do this was to purge their communities of heretics and other troublemakers so, for example, many thousands of Jews were massacred in 1348 and 1349 ( Thomas Streissguth). Some people coped with terror and uncertainty of the black death epidemic by lashing out at their neighbors; others coped by turning inward and fretting about the conditions of their own souls. In the early 1330’s an outbreak of deadly bubonic plague occured in china.

The bubonic plague mainly affects roberts, but fleas can transmit the disease to people. Once people are infected, they infect others very rapidly. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first then turn black. Since chins was one of the busiest of the world’s trading nations, it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of the plague in china spreaded to western asia and europe.

In october of 1347, several Italian Merchant Ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea, one of the key links in trade with China. “Neither physicians nor medicines were effective”. Whether because these illnesses were previously unknown or because physicians had not previously studied them, there seemed to be no cure. “There was such a fear that no one seemed to know what to do”. “When it took hold in a house, it often happened that no one remained who had not died”. “And it was not just that men and women died, but even sentient animals died. Dogs, cats, chickens, oxen, donkeys, and sheep showed the same symptoms and died of the same disease”. And almost none, or very few, who showed these symptoms, were cured.

“The symptoms were the following: a bubo in the groin, where the thigh meets the trunk; or a small swelling under the armpit; sudden fever; spitting blood and saliva (and no one who spat blood survived it)”. It was such a frightful thing that when it got into a house, as was said, no one remained. “Frightened people abandoned the house and fled to another” ( Marchione di Coppo Stefani).

“It struck me very deep this afternoon going with a hackney coach from my Lord Treasurer’s down Holborne, the coachman I found to drive easily and easily, at last stood still, and came down hardly able to stand, and told me that he was suddenly stuck very sick, and almost blind, he could not see. So I light and went into another coach with a sad heart for the poor man and trouble for myself lest he should have been struck with the plague, being at the end of town that I took him up; But God have mercy upon us all!” (S.Pepys). 

“How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ship’s hold and covered with a little earth” ( Giovanni Boccaccio)” bet it was pretty hard to pick up girls if you had the Black Death” ( Jack Handy) “Death must be so beautiful, To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday and no tomorrow.

Why did doctors during the Black Death wear beak masks? Plague doctors wore a mask with a bird-like beak to protect them from being infected by the disease, which they believed was airborne. In fact, they thought disease was spread by miasma, a noxious form of ‘bad air.’ The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60% of Europe’s total population. In total, the plague may have reduced the world population from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century ( Thomas Streissguth).

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Plague: The Term "Black Death". (2019, Nov 01). Retrieved from