Black Death Essay, Research Paper
Review of The Black Death
The Black Death discusses the causes and results of the plague that devastated medieval Europe. It focuses on the many effects it had on the culture of medieval Europe and the possibility that it expedited cultural change. I found that Robert S. Gottfried had two main theses in the book. He argued that rodent and insect life cycles, as well as the changing of weather systems affect plague. He claimed that the devastation plague causes is partly due to its perpetual recurrences. Plague ravaged Europe in cycles, devastated the people when they were recuperating. As can be later discovered in the book, the cycles of plague consumed the European population. A second thesis, which he described in greater detail, was that the plagues expedited the process of cultural change. The plagues killed a large percentage of each generation, leaving room for change.
The Black Death covers the affects that numerous plagues had on the culture. The cycle of the plagues struck each generation. After a plague ravaged Europe from 599-699, plague killed in 608, 618, 628, 640, 654, 684-686, 694-700, 718, and 740-750. In the early stages of the above series, intervals are apparent. These intervals demonstrate the cycles of the rodent and insect life. Robert S. Gottfried also argues, rightfully so, that plague may have hastened cultural change. Along with plagues came the need for a cure. Plague destroyed the existing medical systems, and was replaced by a modern heir. Previous to the plague, scientists based their knowledge on early scientists such as Hippocrates and Galen. Scientists knew little about what they were doing. The medical community was divided into five parts. These divisions were physicians, surgeons, barber-surgeons, apothecaries, and unlicensed practitioners. These divisions were adequate when Europe was without plague, but were obviously not prepared for plague. Doctors responded with a series of changes are to thank for the development of modern science.
Gottfried succeeded in convincing me that his thesis was truth. The opening chapters gave me a solid background of plague, explaining why he believes it had such an impact on medieval population and culture. Next, it delves into the affect that changing weather had on the plagues, explaining the European environment during 1050-1347; the time of plagues greatest destruction. That complete, Gottfried describes the consequences immediately following the plague. It is said that the disease killed 25% to 40% of Eurasia and part of Africa. By this point, it is more than obvious that plague had a tragic affect on Medieval Europe, but it is unclear as to the causes, and the effect plague had on society, which seemed to be his theses in the opening chapters. But he does not ignore these topics. After giving a full background on plague and European culture and environment, Gottfried gives solid details to support his theses. According to Gottfried, the Medical structure of Medieval Europe, adopted from that of the Romans, was nearly eliminated in the search for ways to cure plague. The spread of plague, successfully stated by Gottfried, directly depends on climate. Plague can only spread under certain climate conditions. In order for Y. Pestis, a series of complex bacterial strains, to survive, it mustn’t be too hot nor too cold. Too cold can kill the bacteria, and too hot can slow its progress. During the plague’s most devastating times, the temperature was perfect for the spread of Y. Pestis. Gottfried also describes that spread of plague can also depend on the strength of animals. Humans are merely secondary hosts to the fleas carrying Y. Pestis. The fleas afflict their host with the plague when they regurgitate the bacteria. These fleas prefer an animal host, not humans. When their animal host dies, they move on to a secondary host, possibly humans, but not necessarily. When the generation of bacteria-carrying fleas dies, or the temperatures prevent the plague from spreading, the cycle continues until all the variables once again allow for the plague to spread. Gottfried successfully conveys his point.
Robert S. Gottfried achieved in getting his two theses across. His methods were to educate the reader on the topic, giving only the facts necessary to convey his point. After giving the reader information on plague and Medieval Europe, he argued his thesis, making frequent references to points he had made earlier in the book. Gottfried also made it obvious that others supported his theories. At the end of each important point, he marked it with a number corresponding to the reference in the back of the book.
In conclusion, The Black Death successfully proves that a great deal of tragedy in the 13th century had much to do with animals in the environment. It also conveyed that plague accelerated the progress of culture, bringing the need for modern medicine. Gottfried makes it apparent that man did not understand enough about the environment to prevent plague, maybe a message to the world today. Dense population, as Gottfried suggested, breeds plague. Early plague has educated us, and we should focus on this, plague seems to be inevitable with certain circumstances and lack of knowledge. Not only did Gottfried educate us on the past, but may have prepared us for the future.