Kayla Eckerstrom Black Death FRQ RevisionSeptember 18, 2012 The Black Death The peak of the Black Death in Europe between 1347 and 1351 can be considered one of European history’s most fatal pandemics. Around one-third of Europe’s population at the time was infected and killed by the plague. They had no cure and limited knowledge on how to prevent the spread of the infection.
It left the majority of Europe’s population in terror while the rest turned to God or had their last hurrah in anticipation of their own infection.The Black Death created disaster in Europe including political dissatisfaction amongst the lower and higher classes, the loss of papal power in the Catholic Church, economic dislocation and instability, the blurring of social classes and blaming of the Jews, and finally, the decline of feudalism which had the greatest impact during the transition from the Middle Ages into the Modern Era. The politics surrounding the Black Death became corrupted in numerous ways. The struggle for power between the English and French created political distress during a difficult time.
The two kings started the Hundred Year’s War over the right to the French throne in 1337. This created yet another major issue to deal with in the fourteenth century. The political instabilities were also majorly affected by the growth of the government bureaucracies and the power of Parliament. The English government questioned who should be in control of the bureaucracies and Parliament faced instability that would eventually lead them to a civil war. Nobles tried to maintain feudal order during this crisis by creating laws, but that just created more social hostility.Monarchs used this conflict as a way of increasing their own power.
These issues are exactly what changed the politics in Europe forever. Religion during the time of the plague did not have the supportive structure that many people depended on. As people turned to the church for help, there were issues within the church that still needed to be dealt with. Pope Boniface VIII had an underlying issue with France’s king at the time. They had a conflict arising about the king’s universal control and whether it applied to the church.As the Black Death made its way through Europe, the number of quality priests dwindled and people had to be buried without the traditional funeral ceremony. Priests either stayed with the dying and most likely became infected, or they would run and hide to keep themselves safe. This issue led to mass burials and a loss of faith in the papal power.
With the people not being able to depend on the church anymore, there is a permanent change in the power of the church over people. This is the turning point for religion and it is what starts the doubt in people’s faith.No one knew whether or not God was all powerful after all. The economic dislocation in Europe had the leading impact on the change in European life. As people fled their homes in hope of escaping the plague, many jobs were left unfinished. The shortage of workers caused a rise in prices which also led to a demand for higher wages.
Serfs were no longer tied to one master because if they did not get enough pay, they could easily find another lord to hire them. Many small farming towns disappeared off the map because they were killed off by the plague.It was difficult to secure uninfected goods, so the trade process became much more expensive and extravagant.
This adaptation became a huge issue among the aristocrats and made them unwilling to pay higher wages for the same jobs. The lower class reacted to this with revolts against higher class. People all around lost their tempers because they thought that surviving something like the black plague entitled them to a higher quality lifestyle. This shift in the economy, where aristocrats and nobles could not hold on to their power, changed the economic circumstances for everyone.The peasants were never satisfied and continued to shift the boundaries for wages and jobs. Social destruction became an issue after the Black Death hit Europe because of the population decline.
The division of society into the clergy, the nobility, and the laborers became less prominent as the different classes did not have enough people to fill their jobs. The laborers were able to demand a higher wage for their work because of the labor shortage that occurred after the plague. The new mobility that the peasants could take advantage of was the last in the factors that ultimately lead to the decline of feudalism.The social catastrophe had the aristocrats responding in the opposite fashion. They looked for a lower wage rate. The landlords’ position of power was also weakening as the peasants conditions improved. During all this chaos, people began to interact socially in a way that would not have been acceptable before. The boundaries of the social classes were blurring quickly and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
The Jews became their scapegoat during the plague. Many owed debts to the Jews and saw an opportunity to free themselves of those debts.The population of Europe also became suspicious when they noticed that fewer Jews were infected by the plague due to their better hygiene. The purges against the Jews began in 1349 and affected the social and economic situations significantly. The changes in the political confidence, the people’s religious dependency, the decline in economic help, the social transformation, and most important, the decline of feudalism that happened in the fourteenth century can all be attributed to the Black Death outbreak in 1347.There is not only a difference in the European way of life, but there is an effect on the world as a whole. People adapted to the new circumstances and came to live with the fear of another devastating natural disaster such as the plague. The European population that survived would pass on their new way of life to every following generation and change it into the history we know.
Nothing could have stopped these alterations and even though it could have seemed like a disaster at the time, plenty of good came out of it.