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KS3 History - The Black Death (1348 - 1350) & The Peasants' Revolt (1381): The Black Death (1348-1350)

Last updated: June 2018

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How did the Black Death spread?

The Black Death is the name given to a disease called the bubonic plague which was rampant during the Fourteenth Century. It was caused by fleas carried by rats that were very common in towns and cities. The fleas bit into their victims, literally injecting them with the disease. Nearly all the victims died within three days once infected. 

The disease spread quickly because of the crowded, dirty living conditions of English cities at the time. Disposal of bodies was very crude which also helped to spread the disease. Furthermore, those who handled the dead bodies did not protect themselves in any way, which led to increased infections and cross-contamination.

No amount of medical knowledge at that time could help England when the plague struck. The Black Death killed 1.5 million people out of an estimated total of 4 million people between 1348 and 1350.

What methods were used to stop the Black death from spreading?

When the bubonic plague struck England, people had no amount of medical knowledge about it. This meant that people tried anything to help them escape the disease. Some common "cures" and beliefs included:

Vinegar and water treatment

If a person gets the disease, they must be put to bed. They should be washed with vinegar and rose water.


Lancing the buboes

The swellings associated with the Black Death should be cut open to allow the disease to leave the body. A mixture of tree resin, roots of white lilies and dried human excrement should be applied to the places where the body has been cut open.

 

Bleeding

The disease resides in the blood. The veins leading to the heart should be cut open. This will allow the disease to leave the body. An ointment made of clay and violets should be applied to the place where the cuts have been made.


Diet

Do not eat food that goes off easily and smells bad such as meat, cheese and fish. Instead, eat bread, fruit and vegetables.

 

Sanitation

The streets should be cleaned of all human and animal waste. This waste should be taken by a cart to a field outside of the village and burnt. All bodies should be buried in deep pits outside of the village and their clothes should also be burnt.

 

Pestilence medicine

Roast the shells of newly laid eggs. Ground the roasted shells into a powder. Chop up the leaves and petals of  marigold flowers. Put the egg shells and marigolds into a pot of good ale. Add treacle and warm over a fire. Patients should drink this mixture every morning and night.


Witchcraft

Place a live hen next to the swelling to draw out the pestilence from the body. To aid recovery, patients should drink a glass of their own urine twice a day.

Key Questions

How did the Black Death spread?

What methods were used to stop the Black death from spreading?

How were the Black Death and Peasants' Revolt linked?

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