Abstract: A Study of Various Socioeconomic Impacts of the Black Death in Europe and the Middle East


If only they still wore masks like that today…

For those who may not know, I am slightly interested in history. Just a little bit. And as a senior history major, I have learned to write papers…lots and lots of papers. One paper that I’m particularly proud of was a small gem that I wrote for a class on Medieval Europe, China, and the Islamic Crescent. Entitled “Death Come Quickly!: A Study of Various Socioeconomic Impacts of the Black Death in Europe and the Middle East”, this paper will be presented this weekend at the Midwest World History Association’s conference at Alverno College in Milwaukee. The following is the abstract I submitted:

“Historians and scholars debate the various causes of Western ascendancy in the early modern period at the expense of an Eastern decline. They expound upon technological innovations, political competition, and cultural progress as strong factors in the rise of the West but do not implicate disease as yet another important influence. The Black Death, as
much as any other factor, helped to set the preliminary stage for Western ascendancy. Tradition has it that the plague, whichever disease it actually was, originated in the Far East and spread westward via flea-hosting rats on sea routes, coming into contact with western Europeans through trade and travel and decimating local and national populations. The
Black Death had far-reaching social and economic effects that extended beyond European borders. Primary and secondary accounts of the Black Death in medieval Western Europe and Mamluk-ruled Egypt provide both comparative and contrasting points of reference in terms of population loss, how society viewed and coped with the plague, and immediate and long-term economic recovery. Western Europe, as a result of increased labor mobility and subsequent quicker economic recovery, eventually came out ahead of Egypt, which lacked such opportunities. This lends credibility to the assertion that the Black Death provided a foundation for the rise of Western power and weakened Near Eastern power. More research needs to be conducted, however limited by the unavailability of primary sources on the Black Death in the Middle East, to determine the true extent of Egypt’s decline.”

For more information about the conference, the paper, or myself, feel free to contact me awilliam@pio.carrollu.edu.

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