Prior to the entry of the Black Plague on the continent of Europe, the areas in question were hit with many small catastrophes. Many believed that they lived in an age when the end of the world was upon them. There were many 'signs' for the end of the world. To many the Plague was the Bible's predictions come true.
During the early part of the 1300's various things occurred. Prices for grain, livestock, and dairy rose. Because of this, small economic panic set in and the poorer people could not stay healthy meaning they were more prone to sickness and death. The continent of Europe for the most part entered into a time period which temperatures would colder than previous years. Colder weather affects crops in terms of harvest and volume. Again, Europeans were unable to eat the proper amount of food. When crops did grow and things were plentiful, Europe was hit by a series of severe storms that wiped out crops and homes. Of course at this time in the world, a family would not have a complete stable household. But as the theme goes, bad things make people die and negative.
The one thing that did not slow down was the fertility of the European continent. People regardless of all of these natural problems still reproduced. The population of Europe was on the increase. However, the harvests of Europe were down by 1/4. In the years 1315-1317 a small famine broke out. In 1318, death of animals through a disease reduced the population.
Attitudes of the time were negative. The consequences of these situations brought about an increase in crime, anger, theft, and travelers of the ill sort from town to town. All of these things occurred prior to the Plague. The 14th century was not looking like mankind's greatest hour.
Enter the Plague
Historians agree the origins of the plague started in Messina, Sicily, Italy. From the speed of the plague, historians know that the plague started with the docking of a ship from Crimea (Southern Russia) the host for the plague is now on the continent of Europe.
There were two types of plagues; Bubonic (Rats) and the Pneumonic (Human). The more common of the two was the bubonic plague. Both were devastating in their own way. Outwardly there were various symptoms.
Stage 1: A growth the size of a nut (Boil) would show up on a person's armpit, neck, or groin. The boils were very, very painful
Stage 2: Black spots would be seen on the skin. The reason is that the person is bleeding under the skin
Stage 3: Victims had a contagious coughing and the spitting up of blood. Death would occur in 2-3 days.
The destruction of the human body due to the plague was especially grotesque. Various types of liquids (blood, puss, human waste in various forms, and mucus) would be expelled from the body of the victim.
Why did it spread?
The Black Plague was able to spread in Europe for various reasons. First off many people live in the cities of Europe. Under such close quarters, just like in a school, sickness can spread quickly because of the closes environment. The streets of Europe were narrow and this was significant because human and animal waste would be common on the roads of Europe. Walking and living with waste was a common occurrence in Europe. At this point in history, the major and also many minor cities of Europe were grossly overcrowded. The hygiene and lack of simple treatment of the sick made it possible for the Black Plague to spread very quickly in Europe.
The open sores and inability to dispose of the victims only led to the spread of the Black Plague. Europe was a breeding ground such an epidemic.
What did People Do?
Besides the most common of reactions, fear and confusion; Europe did not know what to do. Fear of the mysterious disease essentially placed Europe in a tailspin. They had no knowledge of air born or physical contact when it came to disease. Europeans did not sterilized or clean themselves in regular intervals to protect themselves from the plague. The health of an average European did not help matters. Most people with their lack of knowledge believed that God was punishing them for the sins of mankind, just like the bible stated in biblical times.
Many people lost faith in the church because the good and the wicked were killed just the same. The power of the church and faith in God was greatly shaken. Without the ability to show forgiveness in God's eyes, people began to question the authority of the church. These questions were as minor as pulling back on their devotion, to the other extreme of doing whatever they wished because God is punishing everyone. Theft and other examples of lawlessness were common at this time.
One of the most obvious effects of the plague was the severe drop in population. Economics also went down because the lack of crops and other services. The basic need to survive took over. Revolts in towns were common and the governments had difficulty stopping the people because they had nothing to lose.