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The Black Death may have been the greatest public health disaster in recorded history, sweeping through Europe, the Near East, and Africa during the mid-fourteenth century. It was so large and impactful that Europe lost approximately one-quarter to one-third of its population, which is comparable to the mortality in North Africa as well as the Near East. India, China, and Mongolia have been suggested as the ultimate origin of the Black Death, but it is still uncertain. Through the spread of the unknown illness, different people from different cultures handled it in different ways, which is what we look at below.
In Eastern countries were Tartars and Saracens, who were struck by the illness, an illness that they did not yet have a name for, an illness they had no information about, that brought sudden death. Not too long after the illness had started it had spread fast, leaving cities and towns inhabited. As the Tartars were dying due to the plague, they had eventually realized that there was no hope of them escaping it, however, they ordered the corpses of the people who were killed by the plague to be brought into the city, with the goal that the stench brought on by the corpses would kill everyone inside. While Christians did everything they could, they were not able to flee or escape. It did not take long for the stench of the rotting corpses to taint the air and poison the water supply, and it is said that only one in several thousand would have the chance to flee. In addition, someone who was contaminated by the plague would carry the poison with them everywhere they went, and a person could catch the disease just by being near that person.
People in Florence, Italy handled the plague differently. Officials forbid sick people from entering the city. The early symptoms of the plague were also very different from that of the East; in the East, you knew if you had the plague because you would bleed from the nose. However, early symptoms for the people of Florence was the appearance of swellings in the groin or the armpit area. After occupying those two areas, swelling would spread, randomly across that person’s body. Different people had different ideas of how to protect themselves from the disease, for example, some gathered into groups and lived in isolation from everyone around them. Some people took the opposite approach and went on with their lives, as if they were taking the plague as a joke. Whatever way the people used to try to keep the plague away from them, there was one common thing: the plague resulted in certain death.
Christians and Muslims had very different views on the reason of the plague. Christians simply viewed the Black Plague as an overwhelming punishment from God, for the sins he had committed and those committed by his fellow Christians. Muslims had the exact opposite idea, though. They did not think that the plague was a punishment from God, they did not run from the plague, in fact, they encouraged people to not run from it, and they did not think that plague was that of a contagious nature.
Overall, it did not really matter how people went about handling the plague; if you came in contact with anyone who had it, you would catch it, resulting in death. Nothing more could be done, considering that nobody medically knew how to stop it.
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