The Black Plague blazed through Europe during the late 1300??™s, wiping out nearly one third of the population, leaving death and destruction in its path. All of this occurred as a result of a single fleabite. Black Plague also known as Black Death started in Asia and traveled to Europe by ships. Many factors like depopulation, decreasing trade, and huge shifts in travel occurred during the Black Plague. There were also many different beliefs and concerns that arose leading to the deterioration of society, which started with superstition, then lead to fear, and ended with exploitation.
Superstition during the Black Plague was mainly religious but also supernatural was as many people during this time turned to God and the church for a cure and hope. This religious superstition is evidenced by Lisabetta Centenni, (document 7) a housewife in Italy, commented on her husbands rapid recovery upon being fed a piece of bread that had been touched by a saint. Another religious superstition (document 16) which believed that the plague was sent by God, in punishment for peoples sins. Another was seen in Sir John Reresby, (document 12) when he stated that he trusted in God to determine his faith during the Plague. Also in Father Dragoni, (document 9) when the Health Magistracy sent a priest to sanitize the area, when they normally would have sent a health official. Theses all showed the peoples willingness to turn to superstition rather than reason.
Fear of the Black Plague mainly came from people not knowing what its origin was. The theologian Erasmus of Rotterdam (document 2) recognizes this fear, seeking to blame the cause of the Plague in England because of the filth on the street. This fear can also be seen in by the wealthy as the representative of the Frankish king Staden (document 5) claims that the houses of the sick were immediately nailed up after the doctors visited them. Another example when Pepys (document 13) the English naval bureaucrat, a part of the government, stated that no one would buy wigs. Wigs at this time were very common for government officials and honorable men to wear and did not wear them as they feared the infection they may spread to them as it could have been the hair off the heads of people who had been killed by the Plague. Desperate measures like quarantines were built, regulations were enforced, and bonfires were erected to stop the disease. Fear of trade with nations arose, seeing as no port would admit Englands ships and thus their foreign exportation stopped. Also in the schools (document 1) many boys died from the plague, which drove new students away from the school and even teachers or other educated people as well.
Exploitation during the Plague was very common, as people were afraid of the Plague and thought of money as the only importance and were desperate to acquire more. An example would be (document 4) when the heir of the dead paid the people in the lower class to smear an ointment to spread the Plague. This was done so that the heirs could obtain their inheritance, and used the commoners vulnerability of income to aid them in their greed. This was seen by Nehemiah Wallington, (document 8) when he seems to use the social status of the people in the household to determine who he would be willing to give up to the disease, starting with the lower status of the workers, then to his children. It was also evidenced by the use of resources at the expense of others, (document 3) when the rich used their resources of money and thus fled the area, leaving the poor behind. The people that wished to help their fellow citizens, remained behind and were summarily killed themselves, leaving only the corrupt of the population alive to take over business and politics.
The Black Plague was a terrible disease that swept from Europe to Asia bringing not only deadly sickness of the body, but also that of the soul. The limited knowledge allowed for a deadly process to unfold: superstition, fear, and exploitation. The corrupt adapted and pounced on the less fortunate. People were at their lowest point despair was evident for decades, but the world was changing before their eyes. Black Plague brought knowledge, chaos and had a major effect in world history to be remembered for all of time.