The black death was one of the biggest pandemics that infected Europe and wiped out nearly 60% of the population, that’s about 25 million people, across a two year period. Africa along with Asia was also infected by this plague. This pandemic is commonly known as the bubonic plague. The Black Death had almost a 100% mortality rate. One of our happiest childhood hymns is a sad remembrance of one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. The words of ring around the rosie describe things that were seen during this dark time because of the plague. Some may even sRosieay that this dark part of our past changed history.
The way of life in the middle ages was affected by the black death in the ways of economy, religion, and socially. The economy was the most affected after the black death. The decrease in the population with one-third of the population killed there were fewer people to work jobs and consumer goods. “As people died, it becomes harder to find people to plow the fields, harvest crops, and produce other goods and services.” Since the plague had killed so many people, lots of jobs were left unworked. Since workers were more in demand this left peasants wanting higher wages for the jobs they worked. The rulers did not agree with raising the wages for the peasants. “Within a year of the onset of plague, during 1349, an Ordinance of Labourers was issued and this became the Statute of Labourers in 1351.” They tried to prevent this by making laws so that wages could stay the same. In addition to this they made a law proposing that if you were younger than 60, you had to work for anyone who asked. This ultimately changes the relationship between the serfs and the higher class. The higher classes were at more of a disadvantage because the worker population decrease. “the vast majority of the population at the time of the Black Death was rural peasants who suffered the highest mortality and in so doing, became much more expensive and choosy about where they worked, and how they related to lords.” The lords had given into the higher wages and better working conditions. Most survivors had come into money due to gaining the inheritance of their recently passed loved ones. Some even took over their lord’s possessions after their death these things included housing, land, and tools. “No-one cared for wealth anymore which resulted in very small prices for everything” Prices of goods began to fall due to an abundance of goods with fewer people left to buy them. Peasants began to have extra money due to higher wages making them able to afford higher-end items that they would have never been able to buy before the plague. It had become impossible to trade in fear of the plague coming back. The manorial system came to an end since the landlords had no choice but to give the workers high wages. “This proved to be the ruin of many landowners. The shortage of labor compelled them to substitute wages or money rents in place of labour services in an effort to keep their tenants.” The standard of living quickly became better after laborthe plague. Seeing that there was a big decrease in revenue, landlords sold their land to the serf’s giving them the ability to manage their own land. This led to a big change in the way of life for the lower classes of this time. Some may say, the economic change was one of the more positive ways the Black Death impacted the way life of in the middle ages.
The Black Death had a big toll on the ways of the church for people. Before the plague the church influenced everyday life in the middle ages. The church told them what was rig,ht and wrong and how to go about everyday life. “Since the afterlife was judged more important than the actual lifetime, it was considered essential to be given the last rites and to confess sins before dying to be sure of salvation.” They were to pray and confess their sins or they would be punished in the afterlife. When the plague struck the church and priest could offer no explanation or answer. This made people question the church’s ways and teachings. After the plague religion had changed for many people as they realized that they did not know what to expect for the next day. When the plague first hit people thought this was a punishment from God. “But many people instead turned to the church for a cure, praying that God would end the great pestilence.”They turned to praying and confessing sins trying to do whatever they could for God to have mercy on them. Therpraye were not enough clergy left to give last rights and help victims. “Contemporaries were quick to note that the Black Death killed proportionately at least as many clergies as laity.” Most of the clergy abandoned their post to try and escape the plague. Most of them failed due to being exposed to it too long. Once they saw that the church could not help them, the church lost its influence on society. “While some people turned to contrition and prayed for salvation, others turned to debauchery and increased sinful behavior; they argued that nothing mattered anymore if everyone was to die anyway.” Many people had started seeing the world differently after losing the ways of the church influence. People turned to steal and sinning with the mindset that they were going to die either way it goes.
People started coping in with the plague in different ways of what they thought would help them. Some turned to pray and begging for salvation, others turned to an inflation of sinful behavior. People started to make art expressing how they felt about the afterlife and death in art, like sculptures and paintings. This made them look at life differently and their self-value increased. They wanted to enjoy life after watching so many people die. It made them cherish their time on earth. The people who survived the plague were most likely mentally scarred after seeing so much death. They watched as people died all around them daily. “During the time of the plague, the surviving had to watch how their loved ones died and had to live with the fear of close death themselves.” Most watched as their family died right in front of them one by one. This has an emotional impact on people that would last their whole life. Most were left without daily necessities due to shops being closed and fields being left abandoned. If they didn’t die from the plague, they were in danger of dying from starvation. Most felt that this was the end of the world but it was the end of the world they knew because everything would change after the plague.
The black plague destroyed the social structure of society that was made in society before the plague. There were peasants and many people who were struggling to live. It was not easy to make a lot of money. With the economy change, there weren’t any more peasants. People in the middle ages were able to make enough money as any other person. People who used to have power gave it up after the plague. For example, landlords started selling their land to former peasants because they had no one to work the land. Things started looking up for the lower classes of society. “Trying to stay alive, they had different ways of changing their lives to the extremes.” The plague made people scared to even associate with anyone. They feared that the plague would start to spread again. Most people moved away during the plague and shut themselves off from the world.
The black death had changed life for many in the middle ages. Life for the survivors of this plague had changed forever. The plague ultimately changed history for the people of Europe today.