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What were the short and long term consequences of the Black Death on Medieval


The Black Death, or the Bubonic Plague was a highly infectious and a usually fatal
disease that caused a major epidemic throughout Europe during Medieval times
and had a lasting effect on society. In short term, the effect of the Black Death
was extremely detrimental to society as the disease itself was very deadly
causing mass death tolls wherever it was spread too. However, the long term
effects the plague had on medieval society were seen more as a blessing in
disguise. The massive death tolls meant fewer peasants resulting in peasants
being of high demand as there was a shortage of skilled farmers. Lesser workers
meant higher pay and it was the economic gains that led to a great change. This
economic change in the way of life of the peasants ultimately led to better
nutrition, education and lifestyle for the people and from this emerged a middle
class. This eventually resulted in medieval society climbing out of the rut that
was known as the Dark Ages and entering the Renaissance.

Fleas, which mostly inhabited rats, carried the Black Death. These rats usually
found their way onto ships and into merchants goods, it made it extremely easy
for the Black Death to spread. To be infected with the Black Death, big black boils
would appear in the armpits, groin, or neck and would usually kill someone
within one week. Other symptoms of the plague included seizures, vomiting and
gangrene as well as a high temperature. The people of the medieval time were
unaware of the fleas carrying the disease due to their little scientific knowledge
or the fact that they were ignorant towards education. Most people turned to
religion to give them an answer to their suffering. They then began to believe
that the Black Death was a punishment by God, and that anyone who carried the
Black Death was being punished for being wicked or unholy. However the plague
killed without discriminating with people of all social groups succumbing to this
disease. With low immunity and no curable remedies, this disease swept through
cities, wiping out approximately 1.5 million people from 1348-1350. The impact
on society was the mass death toll that accompanied the cruel disease of the
Black Death. This left many gaps in society and it was this disease and death that
affected medieval society incredibly in short term. The Black Death ravaged
Europe, and a third of Europes population were killed. The society within
villages and towns changed as short term impacts of the Black Death took place.
As peasants in the medieval time lived hard and cruel lives, those who were not
cursed by the Black Death saw fit to seek better lives for themselves.

After the Black Death had taken its course through many towns, villages and
cities were affected greatly in the sense that the population had gone down
dramatically, however this change was seen as an advantage to the peasants who
were suddenly of higher value. Before the Black Death, peasants were off little
value and their sole purpose in life were to farm crops for their landowners who
were knights. After the plague had desolated a village, the number of peasants
had decreased significantly meaning that the surviving peasants were now of
much higher demand and therefore they were able to request higher pay from
their landowners. This higher income meant that peasants could afford more and
eventually they were able to buy their own land. As well as this, women took on
more roles in society to fill in the gaps that were left open due to the plague.
They also began to move away from crop farming and moved towards farming
sheep for the purpose of ease and that sheep farming meant more meat in their
diet, which brought up the nutrition of the peasants as they had more variety in
their diet. This increase of money had great affect on society as education was
now affordable and trade increased.

During the Middle Ages, there were two extremes in terms of wealth; those who
owned land and those who worked on the lands to generate an income who were
known as peasants. After the Black Death, these peasants did not make up such a
high percentage of the population as they did prior to the epidemic due to the
mass death tolls that resulted in higher income for them. This financial benefit
also led to an increase in trade as people had more money to spend. They began
to acquire tastes for exotic food and became healthier as a result by consuming a
variety of different food in their diet. They also ate more meat that strengthened
them. They also developed a taste for art that served ornamental purposes in
their homes. After the Black Death, as there were more changes to increase
living standards amongst villages, the Peasants Revolt of 1381 took place. The
Revolt began when peasants demanded more freedom and more pay, but were
turned down by the landowners and were sent away. This resulted in the
peasants refusing to pay taxes to the Church, and started attacking tax collectors
instead. The peasants, or rebels wreaked havoc through Kent and Assex, and
finally decided to march on London, in demand of more rights. The leader of the
Revolt, Wat Tyler, met King Richard ll and demanded all the villeins become
freemen. The King agreed, but the rebels continued to attack the Tower of
London and destroy The Duke of Lancasters palace. As the riots continued, the
King went into hiding until he met with Wat Tyler once more. Tyler then again
demanded new changes, but was killed by one of the Kings men. At the slaying of
Wat Tyler the revolt ended and the peasants returned back to their villages with
nothing changed. This Revolt was not only a long term impact of the Black Death,
but it was one of the first and most dramatic events involving the peasants in
medieval history.

At the time of the Dark Ages, there was blatant ignorance towards education.
People accepted the fact that things happen due to Gods decisions and that these
decisions of God were not to be questioned. They were staunch believers in
Christianity, as they believed if they worshipped the Church whilst alive, their
afterlife would be glorious in comparison to the horrible lives they were
currently living. During the epidemic of the Black Death, people became even
more reliant of Gods will that they would not become infected with the plague.
They prayed harder and more often but however they didnt realize that such a
disease was not in the hands of God. They saw religious leaders that openly
dedicated their lives to the Church fall to the illness as they realized the plague
was not a punishment from God but it was something that affected all people of
any social status. The realized that they may be a link between lack of hygiene
and disease and from this they were able to perceive that it wasnt God but
theyre own doing that resulted in such a deadly epidemic. This realization of
people caused them to question the Church in the years after the Black Death,
especially with education becoming popular. With higher income, parents were
able to afford schooling for their children. When the population became more
educated as a whole, the demand for books increased significantly and thus came
the invention of the printing press. With education becoming common and
widespread, people started to question why things would occur oppose to just
accepting it as a decision made by a higher power. From this new way of thinking
emerged an educated society where arts and sciences were valued. This was to
become the Renaissance.

The Black Death had huge consequences on medieval society. It caused the death
of millions and ravaged through towns. Though this mass number of fatalities is
seen as a great tragedy, for surviving peasants, it was really a blessing that
caused tremendous change in their lifestyles. Though the plague killed millions
of people, it also killed feudalism, perceptions on religion and ignorance towards
hygiene and education.