BLACK DEATH-BLACK PLAGUE
Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme called ring around the rosie? "Ring around the Rosie. Pocket full of poesy. Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down." This nursery rhyme is actually about a disease from the 14th century that the people called the plague or Black Death. This disease was highly contagious. It spread across Europe. It was so widespread and so deadly that it is estimated to have killed one fourth of all the people in Europe.
If you break down the poem you can actually understand the effects a bit more "Ring around the Rosie": Infected people broke out in a rash on their arms and neck that had red ring shaped marks with dark center spot that looked like a rose. They would then get a a high fever, become unconscious, and finally die. "Pocket full of posey": People carried flowers, often posies, to cover the smell of the dead and dying. "Ashes, Ashes": People would burn the houses of people with the disease in order to try and stop it. Whole villages were burned down. The sky was dark with the ashes of the burnt buildings. "We all fall down": The plague filled villages and cities alike with dead and dying victims. People would collapse in the streets and be left lying there. People were afraid to touch them or near them. Medieval people thought that the plague was a punishment from God. They did not know that fleas transmitted the disease from infected rats to people. Today we have a vaccine against the plague. http://medievaleurope.mrdonn.org/plague.html
The first outbreak of plague swept across England in 1348-49. It seems to have travelled across the south in bubonic form during the summer months of 1348, before mutating into the even more frightening pneumonic form with the onset of winter. It hit London in September 1348, and spread all along the coast early during the new year. By spring 1349, it was ravaging Wales and the Midlands, and by late summer, it had made the leap across the Irish Sea and had penetrated the north. The Scots were quick to take advantage of their English neighbors’ discomfort, raiding Durham in 1349. Whether they caught the plague by this action, or whether it found its way north via other means, it was taking its revenge on Scotland by 1350.
It would be fair to say that the onset of the plague created panic the length and breadth of Britain. One graphic testimony can be foundat St Mary's, Ashwell, Hertfordshire, where an anonymous hand has carved a harrowing inscription for the year 1349:
The Black Death entered south-western England in Summer 1348 and by all accounts struck Bristol with shocking force. Rumors of a
terrible plague sweeping like wildfire across Europe had been rumbling for some time, and it is not surprising that the vibrant trading
port of Bristol was the first major town in Britain to be affected, for it had close connections with the continent. Bristol was the second
largest city in Britain and was the main port of entry for the West Country. Within it lived upwards of 10,000 souls, tightly packed
together in conditions that were not altogether sanitary.
The plague spreads
The foul (dirty) conditions was as true of Bristol as it was of any other medieval town, if not more so because of its size and
importance. People had a habit to empty their chamber pots (toilets) out of their windows into the street. Many houses owned their
own pigs, which were supposed to be grazed outside the city walls, but were often allowed to roam the streets in search of food. Most
The Black Death was to flourish in these conditions. Writers at the time give an apocalyptic account of its effects. Knighton claims that: 'Almost the whole strength of the town perished.' A contemporary calendar said that: 'The plague raged to such a degree that the living were scarce able to bury the dead..' and The foul conditions was as true of Bristol as it was of any other medieval town, if not more so because of its size and importance.
People had a tendency to empty their chamberpots (toilets) out of their windows into the street. Many houses owned their own pigs, which were supposed to be grazed outside the city walls, but were often allowed to roam the streets in search of food. Most townsfolk drew their water from the river, which was also used for industrial purposes by the local brewers, who were heavily regulated to prevent their fouling the water.
The Black Death was to flourish in these conditions. Contemporary writers give an apocalyptic account of its effects. Knighton claims that: 'Almost the whole strength of the town perished.' A contemporary calendar said that: 'The plague raged to such a degree that the living were scarce able to bury the dead.
Modified from BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/middle_ages/black_01.shtml