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Black Death

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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2012, 06:04:31 pm »



Yersinia pestis, Direct Fluorescent Antibody Stain (DFA), 200x Magnification. CDC 2057 - US Government public domain image
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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2012, 06:05:08 pm »



Male Xenopsylla cheopis (oriental rat flea) engorged with blood. This flea is the primary vector of plague in most large plague epidemics in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection.
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2012, 06:05:43 pm »




A flea infected with yersinia pestis, shown as a dark mass. The foregut of this flea is blocked by a Y. pestis biofilm, which is a prerequisite for efficient transmission.
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2012, 06:06:16 pm »

Alternative explanations

This interpretation was first significantly challenged by the work of British bacteriologist J. F. D. Shrewsbury in 1970, who noted that the reported rates of mortality in rural areas during the 14th century pandemic were inconsistent with the modern bubonic plague, leading him to conclude that contemporary accounts were exaggerations.[36] In 1984 zoologist Graham Twigg produced the first major work to challenge the bubonic plague theory directly, and his doubts about the identity of the Black Death have been taken up by a number of authors, including Samuel K. Cohn, Jr. (2002), David Herlihy (1997), and Susan Scott and Christopher Duncan (2001).[36]

It is recognised that an epidemiological account of the plague is as important as an identification of symptoms, but researchers are hampered by the lack of reliable statistics from this period. Most work has been done on the spread of the plague in England, and even estimates of overall population at the start vary by over 100% as no census was undertaken between the Domesday Book and 1377.[41] Estimates of plague victims are usually extrapolated from figures for the clergy.

In addition to arguing that the rat population was insufficient to account for a bubonic plague pandemic, sceptics of the bubonic plague theory point out that the symptoms of the Black Death are not unique (and arguably in some accounts may differ from bubonic plague); that transference via fleas in goods was likely to be of marginal significance and that the DNA results may be flawed and might not have been repeated elsewhere, despite extensive samples from other mass graves.[36] Other arguments include the lack of accounts of the death of rats before outbreaks of plague between the 14th and 17th centuries; temperatures that are too cold in northern Europe for the survival of fleas; that, despite primitive transport systems, the spread of the Black Death was much faster than that of modern bubonic plague; that mortality rates of the Black Death appear to be very high; that, while modern bubonic plague is largely endemic as a rural disease, the Black Death indiscriminately struck urban and rural areas; and that the pattern of the Black Death, with major outbreaks in the same areas separated by five to fifteen years, differs from modern bubonic plague, which often becomes endemic for decades, flaring up on an annual basis.[36]
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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2012, 06:07:00 pm »

Walløe complains that all of these authors "take it for granted that Simond's infection model, black rat → rat flea → human, which was developed to explain the spread of plague in India, is the only way an epidemic of Yersinia pestis infection could spread", whilst pointing to several other possibilities.[42]

A variety of alternatives to the Y. pestis have been put forward. Twigg suggested that the cause was a form of anthrax and N. F. Cantor (2001) thought it may have been a combination of anthrax and other pandemics. Scott and Duncan have argued that the pandemic was a form of infectious disease that characterise as hemorrhagic plague similar to Ebola. Archaeologist Barney Sloane has argued that there are insufficient evidence of the extinction of large number of rats in the archaeological record of the medieval waterfront in London and that the plague spread too quickly to support the thesis that the Y. pestis was spread from fleas on rats and argues that transmission must have been person to person.[43][44] However, no single alternative solution has achieved widespread acceptance.[36] Many scholars arguing for the Y. pestis as the major agent of the pandemic, suggest that its extent and symptoms can be explained by a combination of bubonic plague with other diseases, including typhus, smallpox and respiratory infections. In addition to the bubonic infection, others point to additional septicemic (a type of "blood poisoning") and pneumonic (an airborne plague that attacks the lungs before the rest of the body) forms of the plague, which lengthen the duration of outbreaks throughout the seasons and help account for its high mortality rate and additional recorded symptoms.[28]
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« Reply #20 on: June 24, 2012, 06:07:33 pm »



(Detail) Historiated initial 'C' containing a scene showing monks, disfigured by the plague, being blessed by a priest.

    Title of Work: Omne Bonum
    Author: Palmer, James le
    Production: England (London); 1360-1375
    Language: Latin

From The British Library; Record Number: c6541-07; Shelfmark: Royal 6 E. VI; Page Folio Number: f.301.
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« Reply #21 on: June 24, 2012, 06:08:27 pm »



Anthrax
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« Reply #22 on: June 24, 2012, 06:09:05 pm »

DNA evidence

In October 2010 the open-access scientific journal PLoS Pathogens published a paper by a multinational team who undertook a new investigation into the role of Yersinia pestis in the Black Death following the disputed identification by Drancourt & Raoult in 1998.[45] Their surveys tested for DNA and protein signatures specific for Y. pestis in human skeletons from widely distributed mass graves in northern, central and southern Europe that were associated archaeologically with the Black Death and subsequent resurgences. The authors concluded that this new research, together with prior analyses from the south of France and Germany

    "...ends the debate about the etiology of the Black Death, and unambiguously demonstrates that Y. pestis was the causative agent of the epidemic plague that devastated Europe during the Middle Ages."[46]

The study also found that there were two previously unknown but related clades (genetic branches) of the Y. pestis genome associated with medieval mass graves. These clades (which are thought to be extinct) were found to be ancestral to modern isolates of the modern Y. pestis strains Y. p. orientalis and Y. p. medievalis, suggesting the plague may have entered Europe in two waves. Surveys of plague pit remains in France and England indicate the first variant entered Europe through the port of Marseille around November 1347 and spread through France over the next two years, eventually reaching England in the spring of 1349, where it spread through the country in three epidemics. Surveys of plague pit remains from the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom showed the Y. pestis genotype responsible for the pandemic that spread through the Low Countries from 1350 differed from that found in Britain and France, implying Bergen op Zoom (and possibly other parts of the southern Netherlands) was not directly infected from England or France in 1349 and suggesting a second wave of plague, different from those in Britain and France, may have been carried to the Low Countries from Norway, the Hanseatic cities or another site.[46]

The results of the Haensch study have since been confirmed and amended. Based on genetic evidence derived from Black Death victims in the East Smithfield burial site in England, Schuenemann et al. in 2011 further conclude "that the Black Death in medieval Europe was caused by a variant of Y. pestis that may no longer exist."[47] A study published in Nature in October 2011 sequenced the genome of Y. pestis from plague victims and indicated that the strain that caused the Black Death is ancestral to most modern strains of the disease.[48]
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« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2012, 06:09:41 pm »




Bubonic plague victims in a mass grave in Martigues, France
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« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2012, 06:10:17 pm »

Figures for the death toll vary widely by area and from source to source as new research and discoveries come to light. It killed an estimated 75 million–200 million people in the 14th century.[49][50][51] According to medieval historian Philip Daileader in 2007:

    The trend of recent research is pointing to a figure more like 45 percent to 50 percent of the European population dying during a four-year period. There is a fair amount of geographic variation. In Mediterranean Europe, areas such as Italy, the south of France and Spain, where plague ran for about four years consecutively, it was probably closer to 75 percent to 80 percent of the population. In Germany and England ... it was probably closer to 20 percent.[52]

The most widely accepted estimate for the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran and Syria, during this time, is for a death rate of about a third.[53] The Black Death killed about 40% of Egypt's population.[54] Half of Paris's population of 100,000 people died. In Italy, Florence's population was reduced from 110,000 or 120,000 inhabitants in 1338 to 50,000 in 1351. At least 60 percent of Hamburg's and Bremen's population perished.[55] Before 1350, there were about 170,000 settlements in Germany, and this was reduced by nearly 40,000 by 1450.[56] In 1348, the plague spread so rapidly that before any physicians or government authorities had time to reflect upon its origins, about a third of the European population had already perished. In crowded cities, it was not uncommon for as much as 50 percent of the population to die. Europeans living in isolated areas suffered less, whereas monks and priests were especially hard hit since they cared for the Black Death's victims.[57
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« Reply #25 on: June 24, 2012, 06:11:08 pm »



Citizens of Tournai bury plague victims
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« Reply #26 on: June 24, 2012, 06:11:27 pm »

Because 14th century healers were at a loss to explain the cause, Europeans turned to astrological forces, earthquakes, and the poisoning of wells by Jews as possible reasons for the plague's emergence.[14] The governments of Europe had no apparent response to the crisis because no one knew its cause or how it spread. The mechanism of infection and transmission of diseases was little understood in the 14th century; many people believed only God's anger could produce such horrific displays.

There were many attacks against Jewish communities.[58] In August 1349, the Jewish communities of Mainz and Cologne were exterminated. In February of that same year, the citizens of Strasbourg murdered 2,000 Jews.[58] By 1351, 60 major and 150 smaller Jewish communities were destroyed.[59] The Brotherhood of the Flagellants, a movement said to number up to 800,000, reached its peak of popularity.[60]
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« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2012, 06:12:02 pm »




Jews are burned alive during the Black Death.
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« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2012, 06:12:41 pm »

The Black Death had a profound impact on art and literature throughout the generation that experienced it. Much of the most useful manifestations of the Black Death in literature, to historians, comes from the accounts of its chroniclers. Some of these chroniclers were famous writers, philosophers and rulers such as Boccaccio and Petrarch. Their writings, however, did not reach the majority of the European population. Petrarch's work was read mainly by wealthy nobles and merchants of Italian city-states. He wrote hundreds of letters and vernacular poetry, and passed on to later generations a revised interpretation of courtly love.[61] There was one troubadour, writing in the lyric style long out of fashion, who was active in 1348. Peire Lunel de Montech composed the sorrowful sirventes "Meravilhar no·s devo pas las gens" during the height of the plague in Toulouse.

    They died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in ... ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura ... buried my five children with my own hands ... And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.
    —The Plague in Siena: An Italian Chronicle[62]

    How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.
    —Giovanni Boccaccio[63]
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« Reply #29 on: June 24, 2012, 06:14:18 pm »




Pieter Bruegel's The Triumph of Death (c. 1562) reflects the social upheaval and terror that followed the plague which devastated medieval Europe
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