The Black Death 1346-1350

Time required – Summary in 60 minutes, full programme in 1 hour 30 minutes

A tiny flea, known as X-Cheopis
The tiny flea, known as X-Cheopis, was responsible for spreading Bubonic and Septicaemic plagues.

Initial outbreaks of 'The Great Pestilence' were undoubtedly the most devastating catastrophes ever visited on humankind. This highly impactive presentation describes the three diseases, which comprised the ‘Black Death’, explains the differences between them and suggests how they might have reached Europe from Asia, in the 14th century.

The material examines in detail the causes and horrific consequences of plague and looks at the role played by rodents and fleas. After a brief comment on the impact in Continental Europe, the talk focuses on the effects in England after July 1348.

The presenter will show illustrations of some of the symptoms of Bubonic and Septicaemic plague; he will also give information about mortality rates in England's religious houses, which provide the best indication of the consequences in the rest of the country. In order to give listeners some idea of the trauma and shock felt by those who lived through these terrible times, the Black Death is compared to more recent events and tragedies.

The presentation considers how the English responded to initial outbreaks of plague and compares their reactions with those of European neighbours. It comments on the surprising benefits and spin-offs of plague in England and finishes with haunting and poignant extracts from contemporary sources, including a letter written by King Edward III, who lost his daughter to the Black Death.

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