The Black Death And The Future Of Medicine
Sarah Frances Vanneste (Wayne State University)
Master of Arts, Wayne State University, (2010)
The Black Death of the fourteenth century swept across Europe causing widespread and crippling mortality in numerous societies. It stands out as one of the most startling and appalling instances of misery and hopelessness in the face of an unseen and unfathomable enemy, taking a heavy toll on the populations it struck. European areas had not experienced a pandemic on the level of the Black Death in over five hundred years and this re-visitation of the plague in the fourteenth century was viewed as completely unprecedented. Therefore, European areas had no real and remembered precedent to which they could turn for guidance, stability, and aid and had few effective measures with which to mitigate this disaster.
Traditional edifices, such as the Church, the ruler, and medicine seemed to fail in the face of the Black Death, and people were largely left to their own devices in coping with the devastation. Contemporaries of the Black Death describe the events and consequences of it with horror and dismay, many leaving the reader with a sense that the world itself was collapsing. Agnolo di Tura, a chronicler of the Black Death in Siena, exemplified such sentiments in his writing. “There was no one who wept for any death, for all awaited death. And so many died that all believed that it was the end of the world.”