The Black Death

Essential Question

What impact did the Black Death have on the global population?

The Black Death

The Black Death, or bubonic plague, was a deadly plague that swept through Europe between 1347 and 1351. The plague originally came from central and eastern Asia. Traders unknowingly brought the disease to Mediterranean ports. From there it quickly swept throughout much of Europe. Infected individuals usually died in a few days in terrible agony. Europeans did not yet have the knowledge of germs and viruses and struggled to explain the causes of this deadly plague. They also struggled with how to correctly treat those infected.

Activity 1: Primary Sources: The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

First, scan the document and identify any words you do not know or are uncomfortable with. Then, define them in the right-hand column titled "Vocab." If you know all the words, pick the least comfortable ones; do not leave it blank. Then carefully read the background and primary source excerpts. Last, answer the text-dependent questions and highlight any textual evidence with the correct color.

Primary Source-The Black Death

Understanding the Black Death

SHEG-How did people in the 14 thcentury understand the Black Death_ .pptx

Activity 2: Understanding the Black Death

Document A and Graphic Organizer.

  • Read the document and answer Guiding Questions.

Document B and Graphic Organizer.

  • Read the document and answer Guiding Questions.

Share our responses and compare documents. Note the primary similarities and differences of these documents.


Discussion Questions

  • How do these documents illustrate how people made sense of the Black Death?

  • How is similar and different is our understanding of the Coronavirus similar and different than the European's knowledge of the Black Death back then?

Effects of the Back Death

The Black Death ended the stability of European society. Some historians think the Black Death killed thirty percent (1/3rd) of Europe’s population—perhaps 25 million people. Other historians claim it killed up to sixty percent (2/3rds) of Europe's population. Thousands of towns and villages were left empty and abandoned. Many farming fields were left empty with no one to grow food. This caused sweeping changes all over Europe. The feudal system (feudalism), already weakened by the growth of cities, collapsed. Plague survivors found their skills in higher demand since there were fewer workers to fill necessary jobs and so they charged more for their labor. Instead of working for the rich, peasants now had other job opportunities.

Sadly, many Europeans blamed the Jewish people for the Black Death. They claimed, with no evidence, that Jews were spreading the plague by poising drinking wells. The pope ordered that Jews should not be killed or forces to convert, but he was ignored. In German towns, Jews were exiled or killed. In Strasbourg, 2,000 Jews were ordered to convert to Christianity or be burned to death.

Activity 3: What were the causes and the effects of the Black Death?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activity