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Chapter 4

Plagues Chapter 4

Health Studies
Course Code
Caroline Barakat

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Chapter Four: An Ancient Plague, the Black Death
-During the last 2000 years – three great bubonic plague pandemics resulted in social and
economic upheavals
oUnmatched by those caused by any arm conflict
-The Black death, put an end to the rise in human population
-It took more than 150 years for the population to return to its former size
-The black death allowed Europeans to restructure their society along very different paths
-It was a contagious disease from person to person – cause was not identified then
-Today we know the source of the second plague:
oMicrobes left over from the first pandemic (the Justinian plague), which moved in
voles, marmots and black rats
-The rats boarded ships and moved from port to port in various countries
-Contagious nature of plague led to the belief of total isolation of sick
-More effective measuers included burning of clothing and bedding and burying the dead
in shallow graves
-Public used outsides as scapegoats
-Black death led to societal and religious changes feudal structure began to break down,
laboring class became mobile, merchants became more powerful
-There was a decline in papal authority
-Third pandemic began in the 1860s – rate borne bubonic plague killed more than 200
million people
A Look Back
-Rats and humans lived in close quarters
-As human population soared so did the rat population

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-Humans provided food and shelter for these rodents
-Short term effect of the plague shock and fear
oPanic broke the economic structure and disrupted work and service
oCommunities were thrown into chaos
oThey deserted cities and towns
-Black death had positive aspects technological advances
oThrough the invention of labour-saving devises
oMore diversified economy with a redistribution of wealth
Public Health
-Death from plague reduced the average life from 40 years to 20
-Board of health were established and given powers that abrogated civil liberties
-Sick were regarded as the enemy – they were segregated from the healthy
-People were sealed up in their houses with infected rats and left to starve to death
-Dead were removed and quickly buried
-Plague undermined confidence in local church leaders
-Restrictions expanded to limit personal freedom
-They blamed: strangers, lepers, beggars, poor, prostitute, Jews
-Plague aided in the spread of anti-Semitism
-In Muslim countries – it were the Christians that were blamed
-The right for Jews to practice their own religion was taken away
-Rumours spread that Jews were spreading the disease by poisoning the wells

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-They were rounded up and burned to death, prohibited from owning land
-More than 500 died each day
-There was loss of faith in the clergy because they seemed so powerless to prevent death
-There was a decline in papal authority
-The Church suggested that this was Judgment Day
-Medieval society had four kinds of medical practitioners: academic physicians, surgeons,
barbers, folk medicine
-Since plague appeared, confidence in academic physicians disappeared
-New prestige fell t to the barbers, bloodletting and surgery
-There was an emphasis on studies of human anatomy in health and disease
-The Galenic system declined in importance
-As the death toll from plague increased, the number of university students decreased as
well as universities
-Led to a curriculum reform and instruction began to be carried out in vernacular language
Economy and Social Order
-The immediate effect of the Black Death was paralysis
-Trade ceased
-Inflation and sharp rise of the cost of food
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