Investigating the Black Death Contents

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Big Idea Two

How did the Black Death spread and what were its effects?

Learning Intentions:

  1. To examine the characteristics and course of the Black Death.

  2. To relate the spread of the Black Death to historical conditions at the time.

  3. To analyze ways that the characteristics of their culture constrain the choices available to members of a society.

  4. To practice drawing inferences from information given on a map and in original sources, and to assess their reliability as historical evidence.


Activity One: Map Interpretation

Working with a partner, answer two of the following questions:

1. Given the information about the route and dates of arrival of the Black Death on the map, information in the Table of Dates (above), and what you already know about medieval history and society, do you think that, overall, the infection was most likely to have been carried by armies, lords visiting their various manors, merchants, or pilgrims? For each possibility, suggest the area on the map where it was most likely to have been at least a contributory factor in transmission. What other methods of transmission might have played a part? What evidence can you give to support your hypotheses?

2. What information on the map would support a connection between population density and the presence of plague? What information would contradict this hypothesis?

3. What explanations might be given for the fact that it took the plague as much as sixteen years to move from China to the northern shore of the Black Sea but only a year or so from there to Italy and Egypt and another year to England? What evidence can you give to support your explanations?

4. How certain can you be that areas on the map to which the plague is not shown to have been transmitted (such as West Africa, East Africa, and India) were in fact spared? Explain your reasoning.

5. If you were a textbook editor with a tight budget and if maps were expensive to print, would you include this map in your textbook? Why or why not?

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