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Why is the black plague taught as something that only affected Europe?

Discussion in 'World History' started by caketastydelish, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Deity

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    When I learned about the black plague in high school we only really learned how it affected Europe. And it seems to be prominent still in 'pop history' etc how it only affected Europe.

    As one countless example:



    Why do they just presume the black plague would only wipe out 90% of Europe, while not doing the same to the people in Asia and the Middle East when they were affected just as much?
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  2. wolfigor

    wolfigor Emperor

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    in first the "Black Death" of 14th century wiped out between 30 and 60% of European population, not 90%
    Still catastrophic but not at the same level of magnitude as you quoted (The black death initially had a death rate of 90% but that doesn't mean it killed 90% of people).

    Anyway pedenatic notes apart you have a good question for qhich I don't have precise answers but only opinions.
    Not all part of the world were hit with the same severity and especially not all parts of the world had the same social-political consequences as in Europe, and not all parts of the world left the same wealth of records for historians to work on.

    The plague of 14th century did hit China, however that was on the tail of a long period of wars (Mongol invasion) and other epidemics: in China millions of people died as in Europe but it was one of various plagues.
    It didn't lead by itself to such huge changes as in Europe... the Mongols did bring more dramatic social changes than that plague.

    In Europe it was different, population have been raising for several centuries and Europe didn't have such a huge pandemic since Roman times.
    It was completely unexpected and spread like wildfire in apopulation that had so social nor biological defences against it.
    This is similar to what happened in the Americas after contact with Europeans, just this time there was no external power ready to take over.

    The black death affected European psycology, economy, and culture in a dramatic way leaving oral memories, documents, novels, and arts that survived in (relatively) large amounts until now.
    It's really a matter of perception (observation bias): the more documents, the more focus.

    The black death did hit middle east, but we got much less documentation surviving from there, probably they were still recovering from the destructions from the Mongol invasions (‎1260–1323) and more documents were destroyed by the Timur wars just after the black death.

    As far as we know other areas of the world were not affected.
     
  3. PhroX

    PhroX Emperor

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    Hey, at least you were taught about a Europe-wide plague. The only one I leaned about in history was the "Great Plague" of 1665....
     
  4. formerdc81

    formerdc81 Chieftain

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    I personally doubt very much the story of a plague infested corpse being tossed from a Mongol catapult into Ukraine was the real source of the disease's spread into Europe (as the Mongols would have also died from the disease in great enough numbers to break the siege). Genetic evidence points to the disease having origins in northern China and Mongolia 2600 years ago, but East Asia never really projected military force beyond the Altai and Himalaya mountains until the Mongols, which is why the disease was mostly unknown to Europe. As a result, with the Mongol conquests, plague spread along the Silk Road into the Middle East. Naturally every year, a few rodents are infected, but one year in the 1340s, a drought caused more rodents than normal to seek human caravans for food and shelter. A simple bad luck incident (an infected rodent in a caravan) was enough to spread mass death throughout the Silk Road.

    According to an Arab scholar, a missionary reporting back from the lands of the Khan reported mass death throughout northern China and Korea in the 1340s, including to the Mongol imperial family and their soldiers. Chinese population records from Southern China in the same period reported that half the population died. It did not change Chinese society the way it did Europe because plague destroyed the socioeconomic basis of European feudalism. It decimated the workforce (who were forced to work for the lords supposedly by divine edict), killed princes and noble heirs to estates, and demonstrated to the peasants that the religious establishment (who claimed to be able to miraculously heal people via holy power) were totally powerless. Because Europe had so many little duchies and principalities, sheer chance would leave some regions with far less competent leadership than others after the plague. Furthermore, when a minority rules over a majority, they need a minimum number of enforcers simply to maintain public order. Plague killed enough of the nobles that not enough knights could then enforce the harshness of pre-plague feudalism on the peasantry while the priests who did survive discredited themselves in how useless their "miraculous healing power" was during the crisis. This gave the peasants more social leverage to forced the remaining nobles to pay higher wages and grant more liberties. I can't speak for Arabia, but China's was a much more secular and centralized society. No religious authority claimed to be so divine as to have power over the emperor or nobles or could compel anyone to believe in their religion or demand a tithe or the ability to perform miracles for a fee. Similarly, the inheritance of estates and control over productive land ever since 221 BC was a privilege granted by the emperor to loyal and useful subjects of high education and/or political or military achievement, and not a permanent hereditary right of nobles and landowners that was granted by an infallible God or defended by private armies. As a result, even if an estate's entire family was killed off by plague, that estate would simply be appointed a new governor by the new emperor who survived the plague.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
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  5. Hehehe

    Hehehe Emperor

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    Because the history you're taught is Eurocentric. History is an incredibly large topic, and there's no way to cover all of it in school. This is why they usually concentrate on European history, because that is the most relevant part to us who are living in European civilizations. As I've been reading into history on my own, it's been fascinating to learn about all the things I was never thought and knew nothing about
     
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  6. Gelion

    Gelion Captain

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    Because most schools teach regional history or, to be more accurate, most schools teach history of the world in chunks. First Middle Ages in Europe, then Middle Ages in Asia and so on. Global history is hard to construct and hard to give to students. Better leave that for advanced classes mostly because up to very recently few things that affected one region affected the other in a big or speedy way.
     
  7. Sickening

    Sickening Chieftain

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    Because at that time Asia (China & Japan) basically are masters of the art of hygiene and medical technology and on which then were adapted by Arab and central Asian traders meanwhile Europe was like purging medical professionals as witches and hating hygiene due to irrational make-beliefs. The rest population living in tropical climate was basically living under UV ray for 10 hours everyday.
     
  8. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    That is a misconception. The middle ages in Europe were not especially unhygienic. Roman waterworks had long go failed, but cities had also shrunk. Baths were still popular, you could find public baths, often thermal baths, in the major cities, though no longer communal ones. Medicine had a lot of a lot of misconceptions that would only hurry the patient along, but that was not unique of the european one.
    This is not to say that medieval Europe did not suffer from bad customs, like burying the dead inside churches. I do wonder how much that contributed to the spread of diseases as population densities and the frequency of burials increased.But they at least had the good sense to stop doing it during plagues. After a few dead, probably...

    Tropical climates had far worse diseases that periodic plagues, lingering diseases that for centuries blocked development there: malaria being one chief example. And that hit some southern portions of Europe hard also. I don't know about India and southern China, but Africa certainly was one disgraced continent!

    It was early modern urban Europe, thing 1600s and 1700s, that got more unhygienic. Many cities grew immensely past their middle ages sizes, and infrastructure failed to accompany that development until the late 18th century or early 19th century.
     
  9. Sickening

    Sickening Chieftain

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    What I mentioned on my previous post is not that European people were unhygienic, it's about the rapid technological advancement in hygiene and medical technology in Asia, especially China during medieval times, such as pharmacology and chemistry. The knowledge was then passed down by traders in central Asia to the middle East which contributes to the invention of chemistry and warfare which led to the fall of Constantinople. Just like you, I don't know much about much history of the world, however Malaria was actually have been able to be treated mid classical period in Asia using herbal remedies.
     
  10. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Most pop-history barely acknowledges any part of Europe that wasn't ruled by Charlemagne and/or contained Vikings, let alone the non-European world. Even the Black Death is essentially taught as something that happened to England and France; Europe wide-statistics are cited for dramatic effect more than an attempt to measure the effect of the plague on a continental scale. The greater world appears as somewhere for Europeans to have adventures, not places that exist for their own sake.
     
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