Today in History: The Black Death
The Black Death or Bubonic Plague dates back to March 20, 1345 when, according to scholars at the University of Paris, there was “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius.” This deadly disease left 50 million people dead from a bacterium transmitted by the fleas of rats. Flu-like symptoms, severe swelling of the lymph nodes (neck and jaw), and bruising were symptoms that appeared abruptly. The Black Death spread across countries in Europe and Asia and it resurfaced to a lesser extent again in the 1700s. Desperate cures included vinegar and water treatment, lancing the buboes, bleeding, diet, sanitation, homemade medicines, even witchcraft. Today, the disease is still present in the world, including Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Peru, and some cases in the United States. Antibiotics, oxygen, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support are generally given within 24 hours of diagnosis.
The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- Exterminating Rats to Stamp Out “The Black Death”. (1910, Nov 20). New York Times (1857-1922)
- Science and Nature: Plague and Rats. (1911, Jan 10). The Scotsman (1860-1920)
- The “Black Death” in History. (1911, Feb 26). The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945)
- How the Plague Spreads. (1912, Jul 10). The Sun (1837-1991)
- Gordon, H.S. (1927, Feb 20). When the Black Death Struck Europe. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Geiger, R.E. (1948, Feb 01). Black Death Struck Just 600 Years Ago. The Washington Post (1923-1954)
- Uncle Ray’s Corner: Black Death Started Evil Work in Asia. (1951, Jun 12). Newsday (1940-1988)
- Wedgewood, C.V. (1965, Sep 12). When Black Death Stalked in London. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- ‘Black Death’ on Increase in U.S. West. (1976, Jul 17). The Austin American Statesman (1973-1987)
- Dumas, A. (1987, Apr 19). Disease SWAT Team Keeps Vigil on Ever-Present Black Death. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Brown, D. (1998, May 08). Black Death May Have Bequeathed Ability to Survive in the Age of AIDS. The Washington Post (1974-Current File)
Check out the The Black Death, a Jackdaw, in the curriculum collection, that offers reproduced primary source documents as teaching aids. In it, you’ll find an illumination from the 15th century, Book of Hours; 14th century Inquisition Writ; 14th century report on an Inquisition; The Lubeck “Dance of Death”; Plague banner; pages from a medieval manuscript, A Passing Gode Lityll Boke Necesssarye & Behoveful agenst the Pistilence; an engraving from Johan de Ketham’s Fasciculo Medicinae; two plague crosses; picture chart; translations and transcripts; and broadsheets. The Study Guide includes reproducible activities.
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