A summary of the Black Death

Map of the route of the Black Death along trade routes from southern Europe.

All the conditions were right for an epidemic. Doctors were powerless against infectious disease. People were weakened by war and harvest failures. Germs, the fleas which carried them, and the rats which carried the fleas, flourished in the dirty towns. Busy trade routes carried the plague from one place to another.

The plague arrived at Melcombe Regis in Dorset in June 1348 and it spread throughout the south of England. In 1349 it reached Wales, Ireland and the north of England. By 1350, it had made it to Scotland. Estimates suggest as much as half the population died.

The Black Death affected the way people thought about life in many different ways. Some lived lives perceived to be wild or immoral, others fell into deep despair, whilst many chose to accept their fate.

Historians suggest that the Black Death helped to cause a religious movement in the shape of the Lollards, the end of the feudal system and the Peasants' Revolt.

You may wish to study the facts of Medicine through time, and to compare the Black Death to the Plague of 1665.