The Black Death or Black Plague was an epidemic (a disease that goes over a large area) that killed millions of people. It started in Europe in 1347, and lasted until 1351. Almost one out of every three people in Europe got the disease and died. This means about 25 million people died from it, in Europe alone.
Today, people think the disease came from Asia and it is believed the disease may have been the bubonic plague. This disease is carried and spread by fleas on rats. Traders from the Silk Road may have brought the infected fleas to Europe. Another disease that could have been the Black Death is Anthrax. Anthrax could have spread by cattle.
The disease spread all over Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. It caused swelling on the bumcheeks groin, and under the arms. Sufferers of the bubonic plague developed fevers, severe flues and buboes that could swell to the size of an average apple. These buboes appeared mainly in the groin, armpit and apparently sometimes on the thighs. People were in pain and then they died a horrible death. Remedies against the disease included to only open windows towards the north, not to sleep during the day, and not to work too hard.
The same disease is thought to have returned to Europe every generation with varying degrees of intensity and fatality until the 1700s. Later outbreaks include the Great Plague of London (1665–1666).
The initial fourteenth-century European event was called the "Great Mortality" by contemporary writers and, with later outbreaks, became known as the 'Black Death'.
The Black Death had a drastic effect on Europe's population. It changed Europe's social structure. It was a serious blow to the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in widespread persecution of minorities such as Jews, Muslims, foreigners, beggars and lepers.
The Black Death has been used as a subject or as a setting in modern literature and media. Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Masque of the Red Death (1842) is set in an unnamed country during a fictional plague that bears strong resemblance to the Black Death. Albert Camus uses this theme too. His novel The Plague is set against an outbreak of the plague, in Algeria and how people handle it. It was published in 1947.Black Metal band 1349 are named after the year Black Death spread through Norway.
William Shakespeare was the third child of John and Mary - the two previous children, Joan and Margaret, sadly died of the Bubonic Plague (also known as the Black Death). The Bubonic Plague was often transmitted by the fleas that lived on animals. The father of John Shakespeare was a retailer of farm produce, such as animal hides, and the family were therefore in constant danger of contracting the Bubonic Plague via the farm produce. The Bubonic Plague could also be air bound and transmitted from an infected person's breath. It is therefore not surprising that the virulent nature of the disease resulted in frequent outbreaks of the terrible disease and that the two sisters of Shakespeare died in their infancy, one at the age of eight and one of his brothers at the age of 27 years old - all victims of the plague. Neither is it surprising that William Shakespeare therefore suffered from a terrible fear of the Plague throughout his life - his own son, Hamnet died at the young age of just eleven years old from this terrible disease.