The Black Death
Roughly 25 million people died from the "Black Death" in Europe between 1347 and 1351.
Watch a series of 30 minute videos about the impact of the Black Death around the world. This includes impacts relating to society, religion, economics, politics, literature, art and more.
"Seven thousand people died per day in Cairo. Three-quarters of Florence's residents were buried in makeshift graves in just one macabre year. One third of China evaporated before the rest of the world knew what was coming.
"In the early 1330s an outbreak of deadly bubonic plague occurred in China. The bubonic plague mainly affects rodents, but fleas can transmit the disease to people. Once people are infected, they infect others very rapidly. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black."
"The Black Death was one of the worst pandemics in human history. In the 14th century, at least 75 million people on three continents perished due to the painful, highly contagious disease. Originating from fleas on rodents in China, the "Great Pestilence" spread westward and spared few regions. In Europe's cities, hundreds died daily and their bodies were usually thrown into mass graves. The plague devastated towns, rural communities, families, and religious institutions."
"There have been three great world pandemics of plague recorded, in 541, 1347, and 1894 CE, each time causing devastating mortality of people and animals across nations and continents. On more than one occasion plague irrevocably changed the social and economic fabric of society."
The Dance of the Dead
"Children are not frequent subjects of medieval art, but the figure of the child does occur in a medieval artistic and literary form known as the Danse macabre or Dance of the Dead. Originating before 1348, this art form was not the result of the plague epidemics, but medieval artists found the iconic image a useful means to express the morbid and anxious views of death prevalent in the later medieval and early modern periods. Poems and murals painted on the walls of churches depicted Death, portrayed by skeletons, as drawing all members of society, from the highest secular and religious officials, down to the lowest, such as the peasant, beggar, and child, into a deadly dance to the grave. The human subjects express their dismay as intractable Death is not swayed by their riches or pleas for mercy. Although, again, this artistic form is not directly related to plague, it can be noted for our purposes that it is death that separates the child from his or her family and not the family that has abandoned the child to die."
Guy Marchant, "The Dance of the Dead [Mural]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #185, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/items/show/185 (accessed July 23, 2020). Annotated by Shona Kelly Wray