Thursday, September 16, 2010

What are examples of the direct effect of the Black Death on European society?

           The immense decrease in Europe's population after the black plague caused a drastic inversion of power throughout the classes so that  workers and craftsmen strategically took advantage of their increasing importance, peasants extracted a newly formed power against their fatalism, and the Jewish population became the escape source of blame for the plague. After 1350, when the curse of the black plague had finally let go of Europe, the tiers of its social system lost their dynamic variance, leading to a decrease in power of the greater authority tier with an increase of the importance of the serfs. Through this, serfs realized that they could break from their compliance and take advantage of their new significance. This caused a heavy disrupt in social balance The King even had to reach out and plead for those willing to serve as workers in the wealthier tiers. Workmen were restrained from departing from their labor without a legitimate license or cause. No man could get out of the desperate whirlpool of needed labor and "most will not serve unless they may receive excessive wages, and some rather willing to beg in idleness, than by labor to get their living" (Whole Council). Through these instances, it is illustrated that those scattered in the social classes of Europe were directly forced into the labor classes due to the plague's destruction of servants.
            The plague had no preference, or demarcation of whom it killed; instead, it killed every person who came in near enough contact with the disease. Therefore royalty and higher authority was greatly affected by the destruction.In France after the plague, a particular group of peasants gathered in Beauvosin, France to rebel while they had the chance. With no council or authority to stop them anymore, the group of French peasants proceeded to brutally and notoriously slaughter oblivious knights and their families. Because the main lead of the rebellion was named Jaques, the group of peasants called themselves the Jaquery. From here, rebels progressed into doing such things as murdering and roasting a knight in front of his wife, then forcing the wife and or the children to eat the meat as cannibals. Likewise, the Jaquery would violate the wives of the knights before slaughtering them. Many royal houses and castles were destroyed in the rebellion fleet, and it continued to grow to having more than six hundred followers. This indestructable, growing force of the Jaquery was a prime example of how the black plague  resonated onto such political and social forces as to allow for the lowest class to begin its revolution. This was just some of the great social chaos that accumulated after the plague.
           In the time of the Black Death, the Jewish community was a part of the European minority and was the  greatest economic competition for the Christian community. Because of this, rumor developed post plague about the source of the destruction being as Jewish conspiracy. Foremost, many Jews were arrested and tortured causing them to falsely confess to the conspiracy.  Jews were imprisoned separately to prevent suicide, and they were tortured until they confessed. Those who confessed sometimes came up with detailed stories about their acts of poisoning, but in an attempt to free themselves, they would turn the story as a blame on someone else. Some of these Jews were then released; however, this caused for  Christians to hunt down specific Jews who were falsely fronted. Even though it was obvious that the Jews died in the plague as well, a bulk of Europeans blamed the deaths unswervingly on the Jews and acted upon that. In the city of Strasbourg in 1349, over 2,000 Jews were burned in in the nearby Jewish cemetery. Only those Jews who agreed to be baptized were left alive; however, the money of the deceased was proportionally alloted to the working men. These outcomes prove that the killing of the Jews was because of religious turmoil and economic competition. The many calamitous events such as these rebellions, revenge killings, and shifting of authority transpired from the Black Death in response to the obvious forthright effect that it had on the Europeans trying to reconstruct society. 

1 comment:

  1. Making a stronger thesis statement: turn "those scattered in the social classes of Europe were directly forced into the labor classes due to the plague's destruction of servants" into a question -- "What does this suggest about power and identity in the late Middle Ages?"

    Use small, specific events to create arguments about big complex issues. "Each grain of sand holds within itself the history of the world."