Essay Title: 

Black Death

March 31, 2016 | Author: | Posted in history, west european studies

A REVIEW OF

THE BLACK DEATH : THE GREAT MORTALITY OF 1348-1350

BY JOHN ABERTH

br While there is much that is not known about the great pestilence which struck Europe most savagely in 1348 to 1350 , this much can be said : in all of human history , there has never been a most devastating event The modern analysis of surviving records indicates that the mortality rate throughout Europe averaged at least 50 percent . In the course of three years , one of every two human beings died , victims of a plague for which [banner_entry_middle]

there was no effective remedy . In most communities , the pestilence struck and killed within a few months while sweeping on to other communities , making the impact of the staggering death toll all the more devastating

A good deal has been written about this pestilence , and John Aberth makes an admirable contribution with his small book , The Black Death The Great Mortality of 1348-1350 : A Brief History with Documents Most of this book is documents from the period of the great pestilence and these give insight into the suffering that swept across Europe during this period . When Aberth does interject comments , his observations are brief but thoroughly prescient

One of Aberth ’92s finest pieces is his comment on one of the great mysteries of the disease which destroyed so much of Europe (Aberth 23-27 ) We do not know what it was . As Aberth notes , the term now commonly used for this disease , the Black Death , was not used by contemporaries . It was first coined in the sixteenth century (Aberth 1 ) The modern reason for describing this disease as an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague is the outbreak of a similar , if much less devastating pestilence in Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (Aberth 1 , 23 Herlihy 20-21 ) During that plague , microbiologists isolated a bacterium as the cause of the outbreak , and given the similarity of symptoms , historians posit that the pestilence that devastated Europe in 1348 to 1350 was a variety of the same plague (Aberth 23-25

Aberth does a fine job of reviewing the strengths and the weaknesses of the modern discussion , including issues about the temperature at which plague-bearing fleas flourish (Aberth 25-26 , and also the strengths and weaknesses of his medieval sources (Aberth 24-27 . After all knowing nothing of bacteriology and painfully little about the behavior of fleas and rats , medieval chroniclers were could hardly predict what modern scientists would like to know about the details of the disease their forebears encountered . As Aberth concludes , there are several problems with the conclusion that the pestilence of 1348 was the bubonic plague , but there are even greater difficulties with any alternative explanation that has been offered (Aberth 26-27

Part of the difficulty with the notion that the pestilence was the bubonic plague lies with the fact that the flea which commonly carries the plague bacillus prefers to inhabit rats rather than humans , and will abandon the rat only when it dies of the plague and its… [banner_entry_footer]

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