HIST 204 Lecture Outline (Spring 2023 – Week 12)

HIST 204


Four years ago (2019): Family ledger and Black Death memorial book from Florence: https://www.facebook.com/NewberryLibrary/videos/346617039265271/ (30:17 min.: see 2:00-7:00 min.)

Pepo degli Albizzi, a Florentine wool merchant, began this ledger book in January 1340. It is an  example of a then-new literary genre, the family diary or ricordanze. The book consists mostly of business transactions and contracts related to the family’s business in wool-cloth finishing and export, one of the most important industries in Florence at the period.

The last section of the book, which the author entitled “All my other memoranda,” includes some more personal matters. Most poignantly, there is an entry for ten members of his immediate family (including four sisters, three brothers, and his father) who died in June and July of 1348, when the Black Death struck Florence as it swept across Europe.

Four  years ago (2019): Fire devastates Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris (begun 1163, completed 1345):
Notre-Dame in 2010 (from south)
In flames (15 April 2019)
Aerial view after the fire (published 3 April 2021)





Michael Wood, “The Story of England: The Great Famine and the Black Death” (58:47 min.; famine: 20:29-30:29; plague: 39:29-47:00):


Dies irae (Day of Wrath), 13th cent. (3:31 min.):

Deus miserere (God Have Mercy), Old Hispanic prayers and responses sung before the funeral service (4:14 min.):

Corvus Corax, “Saltatio mortis” (Totentanz, or Dance of Death, 3:53 min.):

From “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975):

Monks (acting like flagellants): “Pie Jesu domine” (1:37 min.):
“Bring out your dead!” (1:56):

Steeleye Span, “The Shaking of the Sheets” (1989; 4:12 min.):


Major health crises of 14th century: Great Famine (1315-22) and Black Death (1347-49)

Distinctions drawn between:

  • medicine (physic) and surgery
  • licensed (learned or university-trained) physicians and surgeons, and unlicensed healers (including midwives, bone-setters, tooth-pullers, barbers, folk healers, and quacks)

The four humors:

  • blood (hot and moist)
  • phlegm (cold and moist)
  • yellow bile (hot and dry)
  • black bile (cold and dry)

Diagnostic aids included:

  • pulse
  • urine (color, sediment, smell, taste)
  • stool
  • general appearance (especially of eyes, lips, tongue, hair, skin, etc.)
  • other symptoms (swellings, pain, weakness, faintness, blurred vision, hearing problems, dizzyness, sweating, etc.)

Astrological influence on health

Remedies for illness included:

  • bloodletting
  • purging (with emetics and laxatives)
  • medicinal baths (Codex Manesse, early 14C;) and vapor-baths
  • adjustment to diet and daily regimen
  • medicines
  • prayer

Hospitals (for poor only):

Click to see some 14th-century manuscripts on plague, medicine, and surgery

Some responses to the Black Death:



Some effects of the Black Death in Europe:

  • Death of one-third to one-half of the population in 1347-49
  • Recurring episodes of pestilence until 18th cent.; population in decline or stagnant until 16th cent. (click for grafitti from Ashwell church, Herts., 1361)
  • Rise in real wages and fall in land and food prices (until 16th cent.)
  • Changes in farming patterns on large estates, e.g., renting out of demesne, or conversion from arable to pastoral farming
  • Gradual eradication of serfdom (except in Eastern Europe)
  • Development of rural industries (espcially textile production)
  • Rise in peasant and artisanal standard of living (until 16th cent.)
  • Expansion of ecclesiastical property ownership
  • Peasant and artisanal revolts (e.g., French Jacquerie, 1358; Florentine Ciompi Rebellion, 1378; and English Peasants’ Revolt, 1381)
  • Rise of lay participation in civic and religious leadership
  • Attempts to use law or statute to prohibit rise of wages and luxurious dress or food to non-elites

Online readings:

John de Trokelowe, Annales: Famine of 1315

Marchione di Coppo Stefani, The Florentine Chronicle (1370s-1380s): the plague in Florence, 1348

The plague in England, 1348-9:

The economic effects of the Plague in England, 1348-51:

The Ordinance of Labourers (1349) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/seth/ordinance-labourers.asp
The Statute of Labourers (1351) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/seth/statute-labourers.asp