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The Black Death and Its Impacts on Society

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The Black Death and its Impacts on Society

The Black Death, an extremely deadly pandemic, attacked Europe especially strongly between 1348 and 1350 AD (Sweet, 1998). While estimates vary widely, the Black Death has been considered one of the deadliest pandemics to attack a population in history. There were many unconventional "treatment" methods used during the Black Death, including the use of alchemists, "plague doctors", and flagellants. Due to these ultimate failures, Europeans began to believe less in these unconventional methods and started to take a more systematic approach to treating plagues, which still impacts medicine to this day.

Alchemy, the practice of changing metals into gold, was an extremely popular practice in medieval Europe (Crystal, 2010). With the belief that all matter on earth was made of earth, air, fire, and water, alchemists concocted many potions, stones, and other materials to treat disease and prolong life (Crystal, 2010). During the Black Death, alchemists commonly concocted alcoholic spirits to treat the plague (Sweet, 1998). While well meant, these spirits in reality did nothing to treat the plague and, in many cases, made it worst (Sweet, 1998). As the alcohol hurt the body's attempts to fight the plague, many people continued to get sick and die. Due to the failure of the alchemists, many people began to question their methods as more scientific methods, such as quarantine, showed more success in treating the plague (Lufety, 2005). Even

Before the exact importance of good hygiene was known, many medical professionals began to practice more sound medicine (Lufety, 2005). To this day, extremely holistic practices, like alchemy, are rarely practiced and show little proof of working.

Another unconventional method practiced during the Black Death was the "plague doctor". The plague doctor was a doctor who received special training in dealing with the plague (Sullivan, 2009). While it is known now that these practices were not very helpful, the plague doctors were at one point considered the key to solving the Black Death mystery. The plague doctors wore special clothing consisting of many odd articles, such as a wooden cane and a gas mask in the shape of a bird's beak (Sullivan, 2009). The doctors were heavily dressed in a black trench coat and a hat as it was believed that it would protect them from the plague (Sullivan, 2009). Modern research, however, has since proved that these doctors probably spread the plague more because of their constant contact with many patients (Lufety, 2005). Since these doctors ultimately proved useless in containing the plague, there were many who began to not believe in the plague doctors. Due to their failure in containing the plague, plague doctors began to lose their influence as doctors started dressing smarter. Today, in a plague environment,

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