Beginning in 1347 and continuing for a full five years, a devastating plague swept Europe, leaving in its wake more than twenty million people dead. This epidemic now known as the "Black Death" was an outbreak of bubonic plague which had begun somewhere in the heart of Asia and spread westward along trade routes. The consequences to Europe were profound. Besides immeasurable pain and grief, traditional Medieval society was thrown into chaos, economies were fractured, the Church lost status, and art and literature took a turn for the gruesome and bizarre. At the same time, the plague brought benefits as well: modern labor movements, improvements in medicine and a new approach to life. Indeed, much of the Italian Renaissance—even Shakespeare's drama to some extent—is an aftershock of the Black Death. Today its repercussions may be felt in the resistance to AIDS seen in some European populations. By any measure taken, the Black Death was world-shattering and shows how even the smallest of things, the microbial world, can at times steer the course of human civilization.
Attributed to Mark L. Damen Professor of History and Classics,
Utah State University
For more information please visit: https://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320Hist&Civ/index.htm
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