Plague violence and abandonment from the Black Death to the early modern period

Cohn, S. (2017) Plague violence and abandonment from the Black Death to the early modern period. In: Gourdon, V. (ed.) Le retour de la peste : nouvelles recherches sur les épidémies en Europe et en Méditerranée, XIVe-XIXe siècle. Series: Annales de démographie historique (134). Editions Belin et Herscher, pp. 39-61. ISBN 9782410008678

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The Black Death of 1347-51 has cast a long shadow over how big epidemics are seen shaping social and psychological reactions, not only for the Middle Ages but for epidemics across time and place. The essay contests this contention. Not only were the immediate after-effects of the plague – the burning of Jews and the flagellant movement – short-lived; another reaction creating fear and disgust – abandonment of family loved ones and the fleeing from duty by trusted professionals – was far more widespread as seen in chronicles from Poland to Ireland and Sicily to Scotland. Through analysis of these and other literary works, this essay finds these fears were not literary topoi as has been supposed in the recent historical literature. Instead, they show a wide diversity of expression, sentiment, and explanation. Moreover, as with the burning of Jews, abandonment also came to an abrupt halt after 1348. Descriptions of family members fleeing’the embraces’ of loved ones in plague time became extremely rare in chronicle reportage through the early modern period. In place of abandonment, writers became astonished by plagues’ powers unifying communities.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cohn, Professor Samuel
Authors: Cohn, S.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Publisher:Editions Belin et Herscher

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