Essay, Research Paper
The Positive Effects of the Bubonic Plague
In the summer of 1665 in the hot arid east, a devastating plague wiped out a multitude of people. Many whole families were wiped out, and civilizations took many years to begin to recover. To despite the many detrimental effects of the Bubonic Plague, there were positive results from this atrocity.
People suffering from the Black Plague had a short time to live. In the pneumonic form, only three days (Matthews 234). People could get a white coating on their tongue, have a lump that would change from orange to black, or an uniformed red appearance (Brownlee). They generally also ran a constant high fever (Jessiman)
Also in Science and Medicine there was a new study about a scientific method. This led to discoveries in technology, geography, and navigation that marked the following century. “The Black Death cleared the way for a new spirit in science” (Gibblin 54).
The destruction of the existing medical system was one of the greatest legacies of the Black Death. The response of doctors to new medical problems resulted in changes that led to an evolution of modern medicine in the seventeenth century. Medical schools or universities were refined. There was a new system created where males between the ages of 15 and 18 spent four to seven years studying to receive their baccalaureate degree. Preventative pharmacy was created during the time of the plague. This most commonly consisted of laxatives, diuretics, phlebotomy or other ways of ridding the body of waste. For the first time ever, sanitation was a chief concern. Nearly following this people established the idea of quarantining people infected with the Bubonic Plague (Gottfried 123).
Because of the plague, there were substantial advances in medicine. The doctors were usually trained with hands-on experience, and very few had any type of formal experience (Brownlee). Old remedies for the infected person included bleeding, cartering, cupping, or apothecary substances such as drinking molten metals. This was usually lethal (Gottfried 105). As the technology increased doctors began to perform amputations. However the doctors still preformed rituals on these patients such as pouring oil on them, or having them drink strengthening drinks. Dying patients were given a derivative of opium for their pain. A technique called mangus allowed doctors to remover the urinary bladder through a small incision (Gottfried 229). Medical techniques improved from the wearing of excrement, placing dead animals in the home, and bathing in urine, to amputations and mangus (Jessiman).
As a few years passed doctors created a vaccination for the Black Death. It lasted for six months and was not available in the United States. People took a prophylactic prophylaxis. Today one can take tetracycline or doxycycline for infection of this type (Brownlee).
Of all these medical advances, one came about that was directly related to the plague. A doctor was trained to be a plague doctor. His job was difficult, dangerous and he had to serve a long quarantine. Doctors that couldn’t establish themselves in the community mainly held this position. The rise of surgery, the transformation of the role of hospitals, and the rise of standards of public health, were all part of the professionalization of medicine (Gottfried 128). The changes that occurred because of the Black Death reached the global community (Herling 120).
Because of death labor was scarce. Workmen demanded to have raised wages. University professors that died were replaced with teachers that had little or no experience. This, as well as a lack of money and crops, resulted in the collapse of the Feudal System (Mendelshon 278). Nobles that were used to having hundreds of poorly paid serfs to farm the lands, had a severe labor shortage. Those that still had crops and labor realized there was a severely decreased market their produce. Agricultural profits fell as a result, further lessening of the power of the nobles that depended on the wealth their land produced. On the other end of the chain reaction the serfs realized they were in high demand and decided to run away from the estates that they had worked all their life (Day 59). They went to London in hopes of learning a trade. As wages rose, even the poor enjoyed a higher standard of living. Everyone ate better food than before and wore finer clothes. For the first time in England the working class was seen in fur coats, made of sheep or lambskin (Gibblin 53).
After the plague the average family’s food intake was almost doubled. Calories per person came close to doubling, along with protein and carbohydrate intake. Fat intake more than doubled. A typical family’s food intake for one week jumped from 12kg to over 30kg. Many new methods of farming were created and much more food was produced. (Gottfried 84).
The Bubonic Plague caused much devastation in the society that it affected. To despite all of this devastation there were many benefits derived from it. Medicine was advanced, the Feudal System collapsed, and there was more food to be eaten. All of these led to a better lifestyle and a higher standard of living in the long run.
“Black Death.” Colliers Encyclopedia. 1997 ed. 234.
“Black Death.” Merit Students Encyclopedia 1997 ed. 278.
Brownlee, Jaime. “Bubonic Plague / The Black Death.” http://jaguar.joj.hsu.k12.al.us/magnent/bubonic.html (19 March 1998)
Day, James. The Black Death. New York: Bookwright Press, 1989.
Gibbin, J. and D. Frampton. When Plague Strikes. New York: Harper Collins, 1995
Gottfried, Robert. The Black Death. New York: The Free Press, 1983.
Herling, David. The Black Death and the Transformation in the West. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1957.
Jessiman, Ian. “The Plague, England to Loughborogh 1539-1640/” http://220.127.116.11/plague/ (19 March 1998)