Europe’s Social Reaction to the Black Death

Subject: Public Health
Pages: 2
Words: 560
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


The response of medieval Europeans to the Black Death was varied. For example, Bonnaccio (1920) notes that many people were leaving largely populated places, such as trading cities and capitals, and moving to the countryside en masse. According to him, “men and women in great numbers left the city, their houses, relations, and effects, and fled into the country” (Bonnaccio, 1920, p. xxii). Some townspeople and villagers began to lead an ascetic lifestyle to minimize social contacts and their presence in actual and potential infected areas (Bonnaccio, 1920). Others started to act in an anarchist-like way, as no people were able or willing to maintain public order in deserted and dying cities (Bonnaccio, 1920).

However, even these people were afraid to approach the infected and stay near the dead bodies. As one can see, the measures described differ, but there is a common thing in between, which is social distancing.

Bubonic Plague as Historical Episode to Gain Political Knowledge from

Edward III’s response to the Black Death that came to his country was terrible. The English ruler did almost nothing to prevent infection from entering the island; the only thing he did was to temporarily end the war with France (Mount, 2017). He also did not take any measures to localize and treat the infected communities. Mount (2017) notes that “Edward held splendid tournaments at Windsor, Reading, Eltham, Canterbury, Bury and Lichfield, inviting all the nobility” during the bubonic plague crisis (para. 6). Today’s politicians can learn from this historical episode that inaction in times of epidemic and pandemic crises leads to substantial human losses. Another thing that the discussed historical event may teach one is that the cessation of frequent international interaction is a good but insufficient preventive measure.

Negative Aftermaths of Black Death Crisis

An event of such a scale as the Black Death led to multiple crises in the economy, politics, and society of Europe. A lot of commercial and manufacturing centers became deserted places, resulting in economic decline in many European states as many traders, artisans, and wealthy people died due to illness. Tura notes that Florence and Siena have turned into almost uninhabited areas (Aberth, 2005). The food crisis was another devastating consequence, more damaging for the European population than the previous one. According to Tura (2005), “in the countryside, even more died…” (p. 82). The Black Death took away many rulers, their relatives, and other significant political figures of the Late Middle Ages (Mount, 2017).

It led to multiple political tensions, dynastic crises, and wars of succession in European states. Moreover, the bubonic plague has also caused many people to sever social and even family ties (Bonnaccio, 1920). It has partially destroyed the social fabric of many European communities.

The Possibility of Black Death-like Effects from the COVID-19 Pandemic

I do not believe the COVID-19 pandemic crisis will worsen to the bubonic plague scale. Nowadays, people have complex and multitarget medicine as well as well-developed political and historical knowledge. This is what allowed medical specialists and policymakers in different countries to quickly develop efficient response measures, such as social distancing policies, frequent testing, and lockdowns, in the early months of the pandemic (Bremmer, 2021). The destruction of social and family ties is impossible due to digital technologies. However, economic and food crises are possible, especially in underdeveloped countries due to limited international trade.


Aberth, J. (2005). The Black Death: The great mortality of 1348–1350: A brief history with documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Bonnaccio, G. (1920). The Decameron: Or ten days’ entertainment of Boccaccio. Stewart & Kidd Company.

Bremmer, I. (2021). The best global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 year later. TIME. Web.

Mount, T. (2017). Masque of the Black Death: How Europe’s rulers resisted the plague in vain. History Answers. Web.