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Investigation of the Black Death
Transcript of Investigation of the Black Death
Ways to Avoid the Plague
Avoid breathing in the same air as a plague victim.
Sit next to a blazing hot fire (it worked for the Pope in the summer of 1348).
Live in a house sheltered from the wind and keep the window closed.
Attack foreigners and people of a different religion (Twenty thousand Jews were burned to death in Strasbourg in 1348).
Letter from King Edward III to the Lord Mayor of London in 1349: “You are to make sure that all the human excrement and other filth lying in the street of the city is removed. You are to cause the city to be cleaned from all bad smells so that no more people will die from such smells.”
You could walk around carrying flowers, herbs or spices, which you would often raise to your nose.
Live a separate life, only eating and drinking in moderation and seeing no one.
Run away to the country, leave everyone behind.
Go to church and ask for forgiveness.
Go on a pilgrimage. Punish yourself in public by joining the flagellants
Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken, 1497-1499
Plague Victims in Perugia, 1500s
How the plague spread from year to year
There were lots and lots of different beliefs about the plague; people were so scared because they weren’t sure what caused it. Some believed it was a punishment from God, some believed that foreigners or those who followed a different religion (Jews) had poisoned the wells, some thought that bad air was responsible, some thought the position of the planets had caused the plague.
The swellings should be softened with figs and cooked onions. The onions should be mixed with yeast and butter. Then open the swellings with a knife.
Take a live frog and put its belly on the plague sore. The frog will swell up and burst. Keep doing this with further frogs until they stop bursting. Some people say that a dried toad will do the job better.
Open the boils and burn them with a red hot iron!!
Beating or whipping yourself for your sins
Historians think that the plague arrived in England during the summer of 1348. During the following autumn it spread quickly through the south west. Few villages escaped. Churchyards were full with bodies.
The plague spread quickly during the winter of 1348-1349 to the north of England. By 1350, nearly the whole of Britain was infected with the plague.
THE PLAGUE ARRIVES
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If you were an ordinary doctor what could you do?
You could wear your special protective suit. The nose of this frightening looking costume was supposed to act as a filter, as it was filled with perfumes and what were thought of as cleaning vapors. The lenses were glass and protected the eyes from bad air (miasma). You were protected with gloves and a long robe, as well as boots. You could make sure your patient had sweet smelling perfumes and herbs around to get rid of bad smells, you could try bleeding them. Would it have helped? Well, maybe the suit kept the fleas off and stopped the doctors breathing in so many germs – but remember people wouldn’t know why it worked. Most doctors knew they couldn’t help and stayed away.
Medieval people did not know about germs causing disease. They thought that people’s bodies were poisoned.
If the swellings burst and the poison came out people sometimes survived. It seemed sensible to draw out the poison.
By the end of 1350, nearly 2.5 million people in England were dead!
What do you believe caused this disease? Why do you think this?
Proceed to the Black Death Powerpoint to discover the true reason.
"Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down"
Many people believe the popular nursery rhyme, "Ring Around the Rosie" comes from the Black Death. The first line, “Ring around the Rosie,” describes the buboes that formed. A bubo is a swelling in the lymph node. This swelling is often circular making up the “ring.” The center turns black and is surrounded by a red rash. The “rosie” is the center of this reddish ring.
As the victim’s condition worsened, an odor came from them. The living began rotting before becoming a corpse. In response, healthy individuals used flowers to cover the odor. The poem recounts these attempts to disguise the smell in the second verse, “a pocket full of posies.” The posies represented fourteenth century air fresheners.
The third stanza continues to recount symptoms. In the British version, children sing “Atch chew! Atch-chew!” copying the unmistakable sound of a sneeze. The American version altered the sneeze to “Ashes! Ashes!” Some believe ashes represent cremation. However, it could simply be an Americanization of the tale.
After the disease runs its course, the victims usually die. The last line in the poem announces death’s arrival with a dramatic “we all fall down.”
Did you know?