Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Department of History

Advisor(s)

John Butt

Abstract

This paper discusses the medical response to the Black Death in both Europe and the Middle East. The Black Death was caused by a series of bacterial strands collectively known as Yersinia pestis. The Plague originated in the Mongolian Steppes. It was spread westward by the east-west trading system. Once it arrived in the Crimea in 1346, Italian merchants helped spread it throughout the Mediterranean. Medicine in Europe and the Middle East were centered on Galen’s theory of humors. There were many religious explanations for the Plague, but the main medical explanation was the spread of bad air, or miasma. Many preventative measures dealt with eliminating the miasma. The three main diagnostic methods used by physicians were astrology, uroscopy, and pulse-taking. Europeans realized the contagious nature of the disease, but many Muslims refuted the notion of contagion. Most cures for the Plague dealt with balancing body humors, such as bloodletting. Other cures included gold, rose water, and theriac. Even though the Plague killed many, it had beneficial effects on medicine, especially in Europe. Doctors began to question Galenic medicine, they relied more on observation, and they paid more attention to anatomy. There were also improvements in medical ethics, public health, and hospitals.

 
 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.