The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) (1/5)

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Perhaps the single most famous natural disaster in human history, the Bubonic Plague was a medieval pandemic responsible for wiping out approximately 50% of the total human population. Originating in Asia, it was spread throughout the rest of the world via tradeships and envoys. Upon reaching Britain’s shores, it took merely a matter of months before it had spread across the entirety of England, Scotland and Wales, washing through the isles like a wave of death and destruction. The conditions for the plague to devastate the country were perfect: much of the population lived in poverty, owing to poor economic conditions caused by war and poor harvests; doctors were clueless as to how to treat the disease, and the numerous trade routes carried the plague from one town to the next. In the first instance of the Bubonic Plague in England, a figure of deaths around 40-60% of the entire population is widely accepted. The second instance of the plague, occurring just over a decade later in 1361-62, caused the death of around 20% of the population. Many outlandish methods were used by doctors in order to try and treat the plague, such as bloodletting (the act of drawing blood from a human in the belief that it would expunge the disease), forced vomiting, and even cutting up a pigeon and rubbing it over the infected body! Clergymen fought at the frontline of the disease, and were known to have brought many comforts to the ill and suffering, blankets, food, and drink. Ultimately, however, it was not enough, and the devastating social and economic impact of the plague solidifies its position as one of Britain’s worst natural disasters.

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