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The Fundamental Effect of the Black Death

When the Black Death reached its climax and swept through Europe, it left no area of society untouched. There were effects everywhere including cities, rural areas, every social structure, and religious and non-religious areas. Nothing was protected from the deadly disease that bombed the Middle Ages.

About “a third of Europe’s population in twenty years” was eliminated. (1) To have one out of three people die, left no family untouched. This meant that the church felt 30% of their members go to the hereafter. All of the labor forces lost 30% of their workers that produced the products that brought prosperity to the areas. There was already an economic depression throughout Europe that the Black Death intensified. (2)

Morale from economic bad times is low enough. The Black Death brought the morale even lower. Fear filled Europe as people shied from the horror of potential “contamination by the putrefying bodies.” (3) No war or Papal edict would be able to affect the masses as the Black Death.

The Black Death brought the economy down further, changed the economic map of Europe, cleared out towns and farms, depleted work forces, and even killed off many of the domesticated animals that Europe depended on to survive. (4)

In the end, the Black Death affected more of the morale of Europe than it affected anything else. Seeing loved ones die with no help coming from anywhere including the Church, watching the young and the old give into the disease, and knowing that the world that they knew would change completely did more to the masses than anything else. The most fundamental effect was the low morale that touched the Pope down to the lowest peasant.


(1) Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1994), 477.
(2) Ibid, 477.
(3) Boccaccio, “The Decameron – Introduction”, Medieval Sourcebook, accessed March 23, 2011, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/boccacio2.html.
(4) Cantor, 478.

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