4 Reasons Why The Black Death Was Beneficial To Europe

Sometime in October 1347, a Genoese trading ship docked at the bustling port of Messina in Sicily, and the sailors and dock workers started to do the same things they had done so many times before. But this ship was different; it carried the plague. Of course, neither the sailors nor dock workers realized the ship was carrying such a deadly cargo. Onboard the ship was the usual colony of rats; these rats carried fleas, and the fleas carried the Yersinia pestis bacterium. The fleas jumped from rats to humans, blood was mixed, bacteria was shared, and the plague took hold. None of this was known until the twentieth century. Contemporaries believed the plague was sent from God.

Matteo Villani, a Florentine chronicler, wrote a detailed account of the suffering, “It was a plague that touched people of every condition, age and sex. They began to spit blood and then they died…some immediately, some in two or three days, and some in a longer time…most had swellings in the groin, and many had them in the left or right armpits and in other places, one could almost always find an unusual swelling somewhere in the victim’s body.”

The plague was painful and afflicted all members of society. By the time it subsided, it is estimated that 30% to 60% of Europe’s total population had suffered a horrible, agonizing, and excruciating death. But how bad was it? Well, very bad for those infected, but what about the people left behind?

Economy

The feudal system which was prominent in Europe during the Middle Ages controlled all sections of society. On the bottom rung of the social ladder were the peasants who were obligated to work in the fields of the landowners, harvesting the crops in return for protection. The death toll of the plague led to fields being abandoned and unharvested, the lack of a labor force compelled the remaining laborers to demand higher wages, these wages would be paid in cash. The terms and conditions of their employment were also dictated by the workers. Guilds were forced to admit new members to replace the many workers who had died, which would add to the social mobility.

Matteo Villani explained the work environment in one of his many writings during the period, “Nurses and minor artisans working with their hands want three times or nearly the usual pay and laborers on the land all want oxen and seed, and want to work the best lands, and to abandon all others.” The labour shortage also impacted the lives of prostitutes who experienced an upturn in their working conditions. As Leah Lydia Oates suggests, prostitutes enjoyed a “seller’s market” due to an “all-round labour shortage,” leading to “a general improvement of their conditions.”

The shift towards a more individual system of work led to a greater amount of freedom for the lower classes, this freedom manifested itself in migration away from the farms to the towns and cities. The dark shadow of death was always close behind and this spurred people to embrace ambition by learning new crafts and trades. Cities once more became bustling, innovative centers of commerce, which were financed by an inpouring of cash.This led to new products being traded, and new revenue streams developed.

A burgeoning middle class began to develop. The social class not only purchased personal items but also became patrons of the arts, paving the way for the Renaissance. The perfume industry also received a boost, some doctors believed that dirty air caused the plague, and to protect against the foul stench people used aromatic herbs to purify the air.

Plague victims in Perugia. From a 14th century manuscript of the vernacular text ‘La Franceschina’.
Advertisement
  • Ray Jensen

    Not to mention that the Plague is genetically similar to Human Immunovirus. Some descendants of the survivors have an immunity to HIV today.

    • Joseph Erhard-Hudson

      Um…. what? Plague is caused by a bacterium that infects the body, while HIV is a virus that infects certain cells. Saying the two diseases are “genetically similar” makes no sense to me. And all people with any European ancestry are “descendants of survivors”.

      • Lois Andrews

        I read that A blood types survived the great plagues of Europe

        • Steve Skeldon

          I read that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim but it doesn’t make it true.

          • Lois Andrews

            A doctor also told me. Check it out

          • Fred Lougee

            Estimates are around 13% of Europeans are immune to HIV/AIDS.

          • Bob Gemale

            lucky for you they are gay, which makes things easier

          • Davethehiker

            Yes, it true. I once dated a woman who’s husband died of aids. She discovered that because of her European ancestors (A particular kind of German) she was immune to aids! I had a hard time believing her and asked my doctor if this was true. He confirmed that it was. In general people with African ancestors are the most likely to come down with aids if exposed to it. Mediterraneans less likely and some Europeans, are immune. This is not PC and not talked about.

          • Bob Gemale

            I think Germans perpetrated the myth so they would finally get laid more often. Nobody likes Germans but Germans.

          • Bob Gemale

            I read that smoking weed protects against all diseases, makes smokers immortal. And that coffee enemas are similar in that they too cure cancer

      • Tom InBuffalo

        Ray is confused. HIV and Yersinia are NOT genetically related. They do however use a similar molecule on the surface of CD4 T-cells to infect them, and there is some evidence that a naturally occurring variant of this molecule may confer some resistance against both types of infections.

  • pauline2

    Death cures all illness. Weed makes you not care. But you feel great for weeks after your buried.

  • Boxhawk ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    What a ridiculously facile load of crap.