Effect on European Civilization

     How did the Black Death effect European civilization? It affected Europe's population and also its economy. Changes in the size of civilization led to changes in trade, the churchmusic and art, and many other things.

     The Black Death killed off a massive portion of Europe's population. The plague is more effective when it attacks weakened people and Europe at the time was already weakened by exhaustion of the soil due to poor farming, the introduction of more sheep which reduced the land available for corn, and persistent Scottish invasions.

      Fleas infected with the Bubonic Plague would jump from rats to travelers, killing millions and infesting the continent with world shaking fear. Normal people were tormented by the threat of death, causing them to change their views on leisure, work, and art. Even children suffered.


     The Black Death crept slowly into the recreational time of people no matter how much the rich attempted to avoid it or how little time the poor had for recreation. Even the abundant death was used for laughter. Funeral processions were used as jokes. It got to the point where deaths were ignored altogether. Citizens looked for causes and the developmentally delayed, deformed and crazy people outside town were the perfect candidates. Bored? Go toss some stones at the witch and help to stop the plague.


     The damage to art is irreparable. As a result of death in the church, written language was almost lost and whole churches were abandoned. Carving was changed. Coffins had pictures of corpses on the lid, usually showing a very flattering likeness of the body inside wearing their best clothes. Some of these dated around 1400 showed bodies with about half of their flesh and shredded garments. A few of the sculptures showed worms and snails munching on the diseased. Painting was effected too.There are a number of paintings containing people socializing with skeletons. These paintings were made on a powerful person's command, and called "danse macabre". Artists abandoned old ways of painting things idolized by the Christian religion. They were so depressed by the death that surrounded them that they began to paint pictures of sad and dead people.


     Partially due to the lack of children's skills to provide for themselves, the children suffered. A common nursery rhyme is proof.

          Ring a-round the rosy
          Pocket full of posies
          Ashes, ashes!
          We all fall down!

     Ring around the rosy: rosary beads give you God's help. A pocket full of posies: used to stop the odor of rotting bodies which was at one point thought to cause the plague, it was also used widely by doctors to protect them from the infected plague patients. Ashes, ashes: the church burned the dead when burying them became to laborious. We all fall down: dead. Not only were the children effected physically, but also mentally. Exposure to public nudity, craziness, and (obviously) abundant death was premature. The decease of family members left the children facing death and pain at an early age. Parents even abandoned their children, leaving them to the streets instead of risking the babies giving them the dreaded "pestilence". Children were especially unlucky if they were female. Baby girls would be left to die because parents would favor male children that could carry on the family name.

Effect over Time

     After the plague had raised the level of leisure, the people kept it up. This was so injuring to the economy that it has been suggested that Europe is just now recovering from the devastation. The population is also a cause of disruption in the economy because small populations mean few taxes, however the economy improved. If the Black Death had an effect on today's economy, it would be that prices aren' as high as they would have been due to the fact that there was a century where the economy made no progress. Art was also a victim of the Plague because paintings are a lasting record. The art is still an easy thing to find and a good reminder of how the most creative people can panic when there's panic around them. The plague benefited art. Death inspired artists to stray from religious pictorials.

     Soon after the last eruption of the Black Death, the views on children changed. Although carrying on the family name was still considered important , the birth rate dropped. Children were considered "not worth the trouble" to raise. It took four hundred years before Europe's population equaled the pre-Black Death figures. The demand for agricultural workers gave survivors a new bargaining power. Workers formerly bound to the land could now travel and command higher wages for their services. In addition, people left rural areas and migrated to cities for higher wages. The economic structure of land-based wealth shifted. Portable wealth in the form of money, skills and services emerged. Small towns and cities grew while large estates and manors began to collapse. The very social, economic, and political structure of Europe was forever altered. One tiny insect, a flea, toppled feudalism and changed the course of history in Europe.