Imagine what would happen to our society if half the people were killed by disease. how would we deal with it? What if it was a family member that died? What if we lost 2/3 of the people? We would have to change our society in many ways for it to survive.

This is what happened in Europe in the late 1340’s. It is estimated that 75 million people world wide were wiped out, 20 million in Europe alone. It began in the east although where it began is not sure, but it spread west like wide fire. It was a painful death often leaving the victims covered in boils. This plague killed about 55 million people outside of Europe. But it effected European society more than others, because of its structure. Many thought it was the end of the world. Some blamed the Pagans and Jews for bringing Gods wrath upon the world. This created a period of intense anti Semitic persecution. The Spanish Inquisition is a product of this belief that Heretics and Jews were to blame for the plague.

As it spread into Europe it radically changed society. The people hit the hardest were those that lived in cities. Nobles and merchant’s were hit very hard. Suddenly there was a shortage of workers. As a result the old class system and serfdom became obsolete. It was the poor people living on farms away from the towns that were hardly hit. Now they were needed like never before. The demand for their services gave them a great increase in power. Now the common man mattered and had far more control over his destiny.

In England the Plague killed many of the French speaking upper class. Mostly the poor lower class spoke English. But now they were important. English became the language of commerce and government again in England. Also at this time many started to want more rights. Within a century the monarchs and nobility of Europe started to give the common man more power in government. This lead to Democratic Monarchies. It also lead to a new way of thinking that ushered in the Renaissance.

Had the black death not occurred western history would be very different. Would Da Vinci and the great artists of the Renaissance created their masterpieces? Would Mozart and the great composers achieve what they did? Would the Protestant Reformation have occurred? Would Columbus have found America? Would the American revolution have happened? Probably not, at least not the way it did. The rise of modern western civilization could not have occurred had it not been for the dramatic social restructuring brought about by the Black Death.

Many of our common traditions came from the black death। Blessing someone when they sneeze. The children’s chant Ring Around the Rosie. Ashes ashes we all fall down was describing the death of the plague. A pocket full of Posies was believed to ward off the plague. Every time we speak our minds, or listen to modern music, or even read the Bible we are living with the results of the black death.


  1. Wikipedia
  2.  Flea
  3. Eye Witness 
  4. BBC

1 Comment

  1. wow! i never knew this 🙂 thanx for sharing

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