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The Black Death

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The immediate aftermath of the Black Death was a sudden decline in trade and a halt to wars, though both of these picked up soon after. More long term effects were the reduction of land under cultivation and a rise in labour costs due to the vastly reduced labouring population who were able to claim higher remittance for their work. The same applied to skilled professions in towns, and these changes, coupled with a greater social mobility, have been seen to underpin the Renaissance: with fewer people holding more money, they allotted more funds toward cultural and religious items. In contrast, the position of landowners weakened, as they found labour costs much more, and encouraged a turn to cheaper, labour saving devices. In many ways, the Black Death sped up the change from medieval to modern era.

In Northern Europe the Black Death affected culture, with an artistic movement focusing on death and what happens after. The church was weakened, as people grew disillusioned when it proved unable to satisfactorily explain or deal with the plague, and many inexperienced/swiftly educated priests had to be rushed into filling the offices. Conversely, many, often richly endowed, churches were built by grateful survivors.

The Name "Black Death"

The name ‘Black Death’ was actually a later term for the plague, and may derive from a mistranslation of a Latin term which means both ‘terrible’ and ‘black’ death; it has nothing to do with the symptoms. Contemporaries of the plague often called it “plaga”, or “pest”/”pestis”.
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