It is widely agreed that the Black Plague first emerged in Europe in the fourteenth
century around the years of 1347-48. One of the deadliest and most significant pandemics in human history, the Black Plague changed not only the face of Europe, but Asia as well, and in some ways the human race has yet to fully recover from its devastation. With the likes of news making diseases such as avian flu, SARS, and the mounting threat of AIDS alarming our sensibilities in modern times, and the historical example of the Black Death in the backs of our minds, it makes sense that modern nations are preparing themselves for the threat of the inevitable next pandemic. Europe in the fourteenth century had no such luxury. Medical knowledge was limited and often inaccurate, and mass hysteria limited the effectiveness of preventative measures. Limited communication meant that information could be easily shared, and social and religious conventions interfered with treatment and prevention. Close quarters and poor sanitation allowed the plague to spread like wildfire through urban centers, and the death toll was staggering. One needs only to look at paintings from the time period, such as the iconic Woman and Death , to see how pervasive an effect the plague had on society and culture.
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