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The Effect of the Black Death on Europe Essay

The Black Death, also known as the Bubonic plague, was an extremely deadly pandemic that struck Europe around 1346-1353. The Black Death arrived in Europe aboard Asian merchant ships in the form of fleas riding on the backs of rats. The plague then spread rapidly throughout Europe leaving destruction in its wake, sparing few souls as it made its journey.

While most of Europe was affected, the city of Siena, Italy, was struck by the plague in the spring of A.D. 1348. The victims of the plague would experience swellings beneath their armpits, and on their groin. Once a person was infected with the plague, it is recorded that they would die so suddenly and without warning, that they could be mid-sentence when they dropped dead. So many people were dying at such a rapid rate, the people of Siena could not dig graves quick enough, so they had huge mass graves filled with the dead, which only brought more rats, and let the plague linger. If a person was lucky enough to not be infected, many would abandon their families and leave them for dead in the hopes they could avoid the plague. Those who chose to stay often gave in to their pleasures, locking themselves in their houses, and having grand parties, so they could die happy. The plague hit Siena so hard, that the ongoing project of enlarging the cathedral was halted indefinitely showing just how grave the situation was. When the plague finally left Siena, the total dead is estimated to be around 80,000 people, 30,000 of which were under the age of twenty, which left only around 10,000 men in the city. Though Siena was hit extremely hard by the plague, few escaped from it unscathed, not even one of the most powerful groups in Europe at the time avoided heavy damage.

Even though the church was one of the most powerful groups during the middle ages, even its strength and power was weakened by the Black Death. When the plague struck, it killed quite a few people on the church’s work force, so they could not produce as much grain as they used to, leaving them with fewer finances than usual. To combat this drop in finances, the church offered freedom to serfs if they could pay for it. This gave them some money up front, but it also weakened their work force even more, so they would lose money in the long term. They also allowed people to buy their way into church positions, like clergy-men and bishops. This was a bad idea because it allowed one man to hold many positions in the church so they cannot do the jobs as effectively. Finally, the church would charge people for services, that were free at one time, and they also allowed people to buy their way out of purgatory by donating to the church. The church may have made some quick cash, but in the long run, they tarnished their own reputation by charging for certain services, which weakened their handhold on the people.

To conclude, when the bubonic plague struck Europe, it did not matter if you were one of the strongest organizations at the time, or if you were a wealthy city, everyone was devastated by the plague. In the wake of the plague, many places and people gave up on laws and moral decisions, creating chaos which only made conditions worse. The aftermath of the plague lasted for about 150 years and left Europe in a shambles, letting them rebuild and start somewhat fresh.

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