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"The Black Plague"

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In this journal, two theses forms the structure: that,  the black death resulted as a bubonic form of a rodent disease that was spread by fleas, and that the black plague on its first strike in Europe it killed 60% of the population. In order to sustain these theses the author divides the journal to parts charting the spread of plague country by country, including places where few if any, sources survive. But in those places where Black Death was not reported, Benedictow asserts that the plague struck.

Benedictow on the argument that plague was as a result of fleas, he depends more on the reports of Indian Plague Research Commission. But he employs selective reading of these reports. For example, he argues that during the years of 1345, 1353 as well as 20th century black rat was responsible cause for the plague, but many dead black rats as brown rats were found dead in the dwellings where the infection was active by the Indian plague researchers. In other regions like the Northern Africa, scientists come up with a conclusion that black rat was not an important plague spreader unlike the brown rat. He claims that plague arrived with the people who carried without their knowledge infective rat fleas in their luggage or clothing. Studies conducted in the luggage’s and clothing of people migrating from plague stricken areas, plague commissioners concluded that Y;pestis not at all transmitted that way. Benedictow maintains that Y;pestis and Black Plague were all as a result of the household in mortality terms i.e if a party of the household contracted plague , definitely other parties of household become infected. These were found out to be the opposite by the plague commissioners.

Benedictow sticks by the argument that populations living in a well built stone-housing were not prone to the black plague because the rats could not enter the dwellings. That was disapproved by the plague commission by the fact that rats, rats’ penetrated bricks and stone built housing even those which had cemented floors, causing even greater rates of deaths. Benedictow farther claims that, at the season of both plagues hospital workers were more susceptible than others. Whereas, plagues commissioners study by study depicts that, the safest avenue to be during the plague outbreak is the plague ward. During one of the experience of the black plague, Y.pestis was hardly contagious even in its pneumonic form.

Historians discovered that, the Y;pestis and the Black Death travelled at a very different speeds. The twentieth century plague even with the steamship and railway, due to its reliance on the homebound rat, spread through the land at the speeds of about 8miles per year, while the speeds of spread of the Black Death almost equaled that per day. Benedictow, still tries to bring both the timeframes together. He to some extend devotes more space considerably to the slowing of the Black Death. Benedictow refutes any speed of disease spread which was faster that his likes: He defends these by saying that, the Black Death made “metastatic leaps”. His outcomes still depicts the medieval plague having a rate 30 times as fast as the modern one-he does not explain neither admits to this discrepancy.

When data fails to cooperate, he questions or rejects them. For example, the mallorca statistics highlights mortality rates of only 23%, Benedictow denies them, and instead claims that they are “infested with a great problems of sociology, demography and source criticism with the respect to the level of total mortality”. In conclusion the author has not presented his information in a biased and unsystematic manner, to the point of his work getting controversial away from practical sense.

Connah in his work in African civilization, surveys the pre-colonial history of tropical Africa with seven region chapters. Unlike the title, he despises the attempts top define the worked civilization, but instead he decides to employ more sensible phenomenon of urbanization, the state formation as well as the social complexity. He employs a very peculiar combination broader perspectives and archaeological specifics, bearing in mind the engulfing whirlpool of the disconnected detail together with the devouring monster of the unproved/ unchecked theory. That for any one concerned with the pre-colonial Africa, African civilization will remain real treat.

The seven coverage areas on his study the middle Nile and Nubia (about 500years: Meroe, Karma, Napata and the Islamic and Christian eras), The west African savannah (Northern Nigeria, south west-Chad, Senegal And the Inland Niger Delta), the Ethiopian highlands, the West Africa forest and fringes, the East African coast and islands, Great Zimbabwe and the related sites (Zimbabwe plateau), the Interlacustrine Region and the Upemba Depression.

In his approach a brief introduction is followed by a view of “environmental factors and the geographical location”, in coverage of barriers to movement, soils, climate, ecology and diseases. Each chapter consists of core| sources of information basically about twenty pages long. They describe historical of one or two pages, followed by in depth surveys of archaeological records. Connah at this point tabulates detailed information of key sites and excavation, comprising a very nice selection of halftones of artifacts, chronologies, maps and site plans. Connahs approach is governed by the modern trend with respect to the settlement studies much more than the narrower traditional orientation to the monuments and sites.

Six sections of the Connahs approach views the major themes of population pressure, social system, subsistence economy, technology, external trade, and the ideology focusing on the major roles played by these factors towards the state formation as well as the urbanization. The author basically describes others theories rather than his own, accordingly his conclusions are almost qualified and tentative. On his chapter about the West African forest he quotes ‘There is.....good reason to suspect there would have been growth in functional specialization”, ‘it looks as if by the early second millennium AD the very subsistence economy of the rain forest was able to offer a surplus” it is most likely that the localized population pressure was amongst the major factors which brought about the greatest elaboration of social hierarchies. His whole approach seems like

Connah seemingly does not fit one theoretical framework across the different areas. The whole of the introduction mentions theories of states, that of the Haas, and the six pages conclusion views the “common denominators”, but as well focuses on the Africans environment diversity and also resulting development of formation of states and cities.

Black plague according to Herlihy kept the European culture from getting stale, despite having caused devastating effects on everything in European society. Herlihy views death as force of liberation, propelling the European society forward, contributing to its destruction, but at the same time nurturing possibilities and growth as well as transforming it. This is in contrast to how historians originally viewed the “great plague”, as a disaster which shook Europe and lagged it back by 100years.His thesis is simple, but very much revolutionary: that black plague resulted to labor saving devices as the population narrowed, which in turn pushed the European society forward. In contrast to the historians perspective: political and military perspectives, Herlihy views the social effects of the plague on society in general, women, art and concludes that, during the long run the plague was a necessary happening for Europe.

The work is divided in to three main sections. The first section handles the ideology that, plague might not have been the bubonic plague, which holds to be the standard to date historical theory. He argues that, middle ages and late antiquity Medical writers, recognized only one kind of epidemic disease noted by a single symptom, buboes in the area of groin, boils or inflammations. Herlihy denies the notion of the plague being moved through Europe by infected rats. He says that the disease which might have ravaged Europe was not likely anthrax.” Anthrax can produce the characteristic swellings which might be mistaken for buboes” The second and third chapters of the book reflect on the economic impact on the European society, and how Europe rebounded from the plague.

In support to his arguments he relies on the church sources from Italy, envisioning on death and marriage records. Concentration on the Italian data contributes to his major weakness. It does not take in to account the black plague in several other European countries, France and England. The book concludes with endnotes obtained from Herlihy`s incomplete notes, expanded by Cohn. This point serves as the bibliography. Herlihy overly achieved if only he could have presented a theory, which asked the question, whether the Black Death good event, or a bad event for European society?

Author in this context provides a detailed study of the plague in the Middle East during the medieval times. Most famed of all pandemics, the Black Death. In this historical setting, the geographical distribution and the chronology of the Black Death is set out. A modern knowledge synopsis concerning the pathology and origin of the plague is highlighted, which is of great importance to non medical reader, who needs the knowledge and the history of the disease. The document further considers the medieval Muslim interpretation of the plague, on the grounds of the disease origin, prevention means as well as methods of treatment. Religious views are considered, while the inconsistencies between conflicting religious and medical interpretations are well brought out. At another level magical practices and beliefs are dealt with at some length.

The demographic effects i.e the rural and urban depopulation in Egypt and Syria is highlighted. A commendable significance of this is the concern with which the author lays out the social and political context with which they occurred. They pose a matter of unusual concern, which calls for further research and discussion. That is the account of animal infection other than, horses, camels, cats, dogs, wild geese, crows, ostriches and kites. This is not a book for a casual reader. It is for those who are interested with the epidemics which have afflicted man in history, it fills a considerable gap, and broadens ones knowledge concerning the Black Death and its impacts, which has in most cases, been looked at the European aspects only.

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