Collin Graham History 1500 11am-12pm

A Distant Mirror The Calamitous 14th Century, Chapter 5 “This I the End of The World”: by Barbara W. Tuchman. Published by the Random House Publishing Group 1978. This chapter is on the black plague of the 14th century. Most of the focus is on the time between Oct 1347 to about 1350. This part of the book focuses on the people, how they responded to the plague, and its effects on people, economy and ethnicity. The Thesis/Problem of the chapter is how the effects of the black plague made it seem like the end of the world to the people of the time. The intended audience of this book would be the people interested in the middle age of the European area. The focus is not a pure educational point. This book is meant to be read by anyone, it is written in the style of a reading book, and not in the style of a text book. Anyone of a middle school reading level to college reading range will be able to understand the concept of the book easily. The book is focused mostly to history students interested in the Middle Age. The high points are the book is talking about how some people responded to the Plague. Tuchman brings the feeling of the “this is the end of the world” (pg. 95) written by the chronicler of Siena into the writing. She also brought up fact that the plague killed so many workers that work being done on a cathedral was stopped and it couldn’t be restarted because of the loss of skilled craftsmen. The effects of the plague were so devastating and killed so

many, that “Clement VI found it necessary to grant remission of sin to all who died of the plague” (pg. 95). As for the reliability and credibility of the book I believe it is well done. She has many references and a large bibliography. One references that stood out to me is when she describes the experience on a monk who had been writing a journal, about how all the other in the monastery have died and he is leaving after the last burial to find some other place to take him in. I like the fact that she is using these records. They are important because it shows the influence of the Catholic Church at the time. Many of the people believe that the plague was caused by God to bring the end of the world and the apocalypse. As stated before, Clement VI found it necessary to grant forgiveness to all because of the decimating effects of the plague on the people. Many of the clergy were killed by the plague and could not attend to all of the dying. The book brings to life the devastating effects of the plague to the reader. Another thing she references is a group of people that were called the “flagellants”. These were a large group of people who would scourge themself as a penance for sin. This came about as the fact that people believed the plague was caused by God and that penance was need. Another thing that surprised me was the thought process that the majority of the people believed that the Jews had gone around poisoning the wells. This led to the destruction of whole towns and villages, which were homes to the Jews. To both of these groups, the ruling class tried to stop them from doing so. The Flagellants became roaming gangs that turned to looting and taking the church authority upon themselves. For the Jews, they were given

protection by some of the rulers but, only one is mentioned that took enough steps to full protect them, he was Duke Albert II of Austria. The morals of the people didn’t improve because of the plague. Many of the people thought that it was the wrath of God because of the peoples immoral behavior. Many things happened that show that during the plague the morals of the people became worse. Instances of parent abandoning children whom became ill were common. There was even a law put into place that forbade the marriage of young women to anyone without an adult relative ’s permission. “The marriage undoubtedly rose, though not for love. So many adventurers took advantage of orphans to obtain rich dowries that oligarchy of Siena forbade the marriage…” (pg 117 1). Another thing that was put in place that I found interesting was that they change working and pay laws, or you could say they placed some into effect. In England, they tried to keep pay rates the same as before the plague in efforts to keep thing normal. They also had the guild change how they were letting people train apprentices to increase the trained work force. In France, they put controls into effect to try to stop price gouging and keep pay down to reasonable levels. They did this by only allowing the price to reach 1/3 the increase of preplague price. They did this all because of the demand for workers and workers demanding more and more as more people died from the plague. All of this is summed up in one phrase “what was the human condition after the Plague? Exhausted by deaths and sorrows and morbid excesses of fear and hate, it ought to have shown some profound effects, but no radical change was immediately visible.” (pg. 116 4 th ¶) People

don’t change as a whole. We are creatures of habit and like the norm. Even after all of the death, hate, fear, and morals lost, the people went back to an almost same way as before. These things will bring out the best in some and the worst in others. The end of the world will probably be like the Black Plague of the 14th century and that would be human nature.