Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Task 1.6

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Task 6.1 ¡V Essay

The purpose of this essay is to discuss how the medieval way of life shaped people¡¦s reactions to the Black Plague, also known as the Black Death. Educational standards, the influence of the church and the reliability of medical information affected peoples¡¦ reactions to this epidemic. The Black plague was a disease that, between 147 and 14 killed one third of the population of medieval Europe. The plague is thought to have originated in central Asia in 140 and from there spread through trade routes all over the world.

The educational standards in medieval times varied according to the social standing of the person in question. The wealthy learnt religious teachings and languages such as Latin while the poor peasants were taught agricultural skills by their families. When the plague appeared, the general population could only use their superstitions and beliefs to explain the catastrophic disease, while the rich weren¡¦t much better off in chances of survival of the plague either.

The church heavily influenced the way people formed ideas, solutions and conclusions in the middle ages. If a hypothesis for what caused the plague or a solution for the plague was in conflict with the church¡¦s interests the hypothesis would most likely not be recognized as a valid reason or conclusion. The church¡¦s many regulations such as forbidding dissections of the human dead prevented doctors and researchers from better understanding the plague and therefore finding cures or methods of preventatives.

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The reliability of medical information in the Middle Ages was poor. Drugs such as opium and tobacco as well as make-believe substances such as unicorn horn were thought to cure the plague. The medicines given to victims of the Black Plague often left the patient worse off. Cures which had an adverse effect on patients included burning the sensitive swelling that was a symptom of the plague and deliberate transmission of the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. Prostitutes-who often had syphilis were thought less likely to contract the plague. People thought if they contracted the disease they would be immune to the plague as well.

Modern explanations for the black plague differ from those in the Middle Ages due to the way medieval people lived as well as the influence of those in power at the time. However, some hypotheses developed in the Middle Ages are thought to be correct such as the effects of hygiene and an immunity that develops once an individual has survived a season of the plague- (the hosts of the plague, the fleas which were carried by rats, came out in warm temperatures thus the season of summer was when the plague struck).

Reference List

�á Movie The Great plague of London

�á Source 4 of information sheet Boccacio, Introduction to The Decameron 151

�á SOSE textbook- Medieval chapter

�á The ¡¥Black Death¡¦ handout information sheet which contained Boccaccio, Introduction to the Decameron, 151

A thirteenth-century doctor¡¦s description of the stomach

John Arderne, the Art of Medicine and Surgery, about 141

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