The Black Death, one of history’s deadliest pandemics, left a profound impact on societies, cultures, and even our genetic makeup. From influencing pub culture in Britain to shaping human immunity genes, the reach of this 14th-century plague has been far more extensive than commonly acknowledged, as this article explores.
1. The British Pub culture can trace its roots back to the Black Death. The pub’s emergence was a by-product of the labor shortage that improved peasants’ living standards, leading to increased beer consumption with their additional income.
2. It’s fascinating to know that the genetic characteristics that enabled people to survive the 14th-century Black Death are related to autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease today. This connection highlights how an ancient pandemic influenced the evolution of human immunity genes.
3. Post-Black Death, the labor shortage allowed English peasants to negotiate higher wages. The Parliament’s reaction was the Statute of Labourers 1351, restricting wages to pre-plague levels, ultimately contributing to the English Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.
4. European Feudalism/Manoralism began its decline in response to the Black Death. As the labor force dwindled, lords had to increase wages, leading to less travel restriction and the eventual birth of the trading or middle class.
5. A dark side of the Black Death’s history is the blame that fell upon the Jewish community for the pandemic.
6. An intriguing character from the era was the Papal physician who acknowledged that bloodletting was ineffective. However, he continued prescribing it for the Roman Curia members he disliked. He held the belief that all legitimate plague cases were astrologically influenced and, thus, incurable.
7. The Bubonic plague, which was responsible for the Black Death, continues to persist today. Annually, a number of cases are reported in countries such as Congo, Madagascar, and Peru. Even the United States and China experience occasional isolated incidents.
As we reflect on these varied impacts of the Black Death, we’re reminded that historical events often have complex and far-reaching influences that continue to echo into our present, shaping societies, cultures, and our very biology in ways we are still discovering.