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