The Bubonic Plague
How would you have reacted to the plague?
Write a paragraph of 50 to 75 words describing how your life would be different if the following scenario was to happen.
the result of the outbreak of an unknown disease in
bubonic plague is believed to have killed 1/3 of
Have the students write their paragraphs and read them to the class if they so wish. Our goal here is to see if the students can come up with 3 or 4 different reactions to the scenario. Students might have chosen one of the following:
1)They would have become more religious as they prayed to God for deliverance from the plague.
2)They would have become less religious as they could not understand why
a God would have subjected them to such a trial. They might even question their religious beliefs.
3)They would live as if each day was their last and pursue pleasure. The idea that one should eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you shall die.
4)They would withdraw with family and friends to a place where everyone is seemingly healthy and ride out the plague. This is the isolationist reaction.
Each of these reactions is related by Boccaccio in his book Decameron. A handout with experts accompanies this lesson plan. This is an excellent way to demonstrate to students the value of contemporary literary sources in the study of history.
Students should come away from the lessons with the idea that they are not that different from people who lived nearly seven hundred years ago.
SS 2- World History
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.
Key idea 1: The study of world history requires an understanding of world cultures and civilizations, including an analysis of important ideas, social and cultural values, beliefs, and traditions. This study also examines the human condition and the connections and interactions of people across time and space, and the ways different people view the same event or issue from a variety of perspectives.
Key idea 3: Study of the major social, political, cultural, and religious developments in world history involves learning about the important roles and contributions of individuals and groups.
Key idea 4: The skills of historical analysis include the ability to investigate differing and competing interpretations of the theories of history, hypothesize about why interpretations change over time, explain the importance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time.
Literacy Skills Demonstrated:
Speaking and writing to acquire and transmit information requires asking probing and clarifying questions, interpreting information in one's own words, applying information from one context to another, and presenting the information and interpretation clearly, concisely, and comprehensibly.
Listening and reading to analyze and evaluate experiences, ideas, information, and issues require using evaluative criteria from a variety of perspectives.
Numeracy Skills Demonstrated:
Figuring percentages from data given, in this case 1/3, and computing the actual numbers of dead from the figures given.
Supplementary Related Discovery Activities:
Have students research the
SARS (or AIDS or
Regents Preparation Activities:
THEMATIC ESSAY QUESTION
Directions: Write a well-organized essay that includes an introduction, several paragraphs addressing the task below, and a conclusion.
· Theme: Change/Turning Points
Political, economic, End social conditions have often led to turning points that have changed the course of history for nations and peoples.
Identify two turning points from your study of global history. Describe the causes and key events that led to the turning point. Explain how each turning point changed the course of history for nations and peoples.
History through Literature
tragic turning point in the history of medieval Europe was the bubonic plague,
known as the Black Death, which swept over Europe and parts of
Boccacio imagined that ten young Florentines-seven women and three men-had fled the city to a villa, where they took turns telling stories-100 in all-to keep themselves entertained. This excerpt sets the scene. As you read think about the effects of such a plague on society. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, answer the questions that follow.
Vocabulary: Before you begin reading, find the meaning of these words in a dictionary: ceaselessly, supplication, pious, alleviate, malignancy, fanciful, superfluity, temperate bestial.
the year 1348 after the fruitful incarnation of the Son of God, that most
beautiful of Italian cities, noble
No doctor's advice, no medicine could overcome or alleviate this disease.
An enormous number of ignorant men and women set up as doctors in addition to those who were trained. Either the disease was such that no treatment was possible or the doctors were so ignorant that they did not know what caused it, and consequently could not administer the proper remedy. In any case very few recovered: most people died within about three days of the appearance of the tumors described above, most of them without any fever or any other symptoms.
The violence of this disease was such that the sick communicated it to the healthy that Game near them, just as fire catches anything dry or oily near it. And it even went further. To speaker to or go near the sick brought infection and a common death to the living; and moreover to touch the clothes or anything else the sick had touched or worn gave the disease to the person touching.
What 1 am about to tell now is a marvelous thing to hear; and if I and others had not seen it with our own eyes I would not dare to write it, however much I was willing to believe and whatever the good faith of the person from whom i heard it. So violent was the malignancy of this plague that it was communicated, not only from one man to another, but from the garments of a sick or dead man to animals of another species, which caught the disease in that way and very quickly died of it. One day among other occasions I saw with my own eyes (as I said just now) the rags left lying in the street of a poor man who had died of the plague; two pigs came along and, as their habit is, turned the clothes over with their snouts and then munched at them, with the result that they both fell dead almost at once on the rags, as if they had been poisoned.
From these and similar or greater occurrences, such fear and fanciful notions took possession of the living that almost all of them adopted the same cruel policy, which was entirely to avoid the sick and everything belonging to them. By so doing, each one thought he would secure his own safety.
Some thought that moderate living and the avoidance of all superfluity would preserve them from the epidemic. They formed small communities, living entirely separate from everybody else. They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures. Others thought just the opposite. They thought the sure cure for the plague was to drink and to be merry, to go about singing and amusing themselves, satisfying every appetite they could laughing and jesting at what happened. They put their words into practice, spent day and night going from tavern to tavern, drinking immoderately. or went into other people's houses, doing only those things which pleased them. This they could easily do because everyone felt doomed and had abandoned his property, so that most houses became common property and any stranger who went in made use of them as if he had owned them. And with all this bestial behavior, they avoided the sick as much as possible.
In this suffering and misery of our city, the authority of human and divine laws almost disappeared, for, like other men, the ministers and the executors of the laws were all dead or sick or shut up with their families, so that no duties were carried out. Every man was therefore able to do as he pleased.
Many others adopted a course of life midway between the two just described. They did not restrict their victuals so much as the former, nor allow themselves to be drunken and dissolute like the latter but satisfied their appetites moderately. They did not shut themselves up, but went about, carrying flowers or scented herbs or perfumes in their hands, in the belief that it was an excellent thing to comfort the brain with such odors; for the whole air was infected with the smell of dead bodies, of sick persons and medicines.
Others again held a still more cruel opinion, which they thought would keep them safe, They said that the only medicine against the plague- stricken was to go right away from them. Men and women, convinced of this and caring about nothing but themselves, abandoned their own city, their own houses, their dwellings, their relatives. their property, and went abroad or at least to the country round Florence, as if God's wrath in punishing men's wickedness with this plague would not follow them but strike only those who remained within the walls of the city, or as if they thought nobody in the city would remain alive and that its last hour had come.
Not everyone who adopted any of these various opinions died, nor did all escape. Some when they were still healthy had set the example of avoiding the sick, and, falling ill themselves, died untended.
One citizen avoided another, hardly any neighbor troubled about others, relatives never or hardly ever visited each other. Moreover such terror was struck into the hearts of men and women by this calamity, that brother abandoned brother and the uncle his nephew, and the sister her brother, and very often the wife her husband. What is even worse and nearly incredible is that fathers and mothers refused to see and tend their children as if they had not been theirs.
Thus a multitude of sick men and women were left without any care except from the charity of friends (but these were few), or the greed of servants, though not many of these could be had even for high wages. Moreover, most of them were coarse-minded men and women, who did little more than bring the sick what they asked for or watch over them when they were eying. And very often these servants lost their lives and their earnings.
In this way many people died who might have been saved if they had been looked after, Owing to the lack of attendants for the sick and the violence of the plague, such a multitude of people in the city died day and night that it was stupefying to hear of, let alone to see. From sheer necessity, then, several ancient customs were quite altered among the survivors.
1.(a) Where did the plague begin and spread?
(b) What two possible causes does 8occacio suggest for such a terrible event?
How did people behave toward those who were sick? Why?
How did the plague affect city government and laws?
What aspect at people's behavior seems to shock Boccaccio most?
What ways of living did people adopt in the face of the plague? Did any of them work better than others? Which, if any, of these alternatives would you choose?
Link Consider what the shock of such a plague and the loss of so many people
would do to European culture. Relate the plague to other events taking place in
Commentary on model Social Studies lesson:
How would you have reacted to the plague?
The Aim would De elicited from the Motivation, which asks students to describe that reaction to a scenario involving the spread of an infectious and deadly disease. Students are asked to imagine that they are faced with a situation similar to the bubonic plague, where they would be placed under quarantine and would deal win; unimaginable horrors. This motivation allows students to experience an event that occurred over 500 years ago by relating it to their own lives.
first part of the Discovery Procedure allows student to share their responses
to the opening scenario. Students will
discuss the similarities and differences in their reactions to the spread of a
deadly disease in their community. As a second activity, students will have the
opportunity to read selections from Boccaccio’s Decameron, which tells a story of men and women
As a Summary activity, students will compare their responses to the responses of people who lived during the actual event. They may be surprised to discover their reactions are Similar to people who lived over a half a century ago.
This lessen requires many different skills. Students will use mathematical formulas to calculate the percentages of the population affected by the plague, improving their Numeracy Skills. Students are also demonstrating many Literacy Skills, including the interpretation and analysis of a work of literature. Students are also writing an essay of at least 50 words and discussing their responses with the class.
As a Supplementary Related Discovery Activity, students will use research skills to look into the spread of other infectious diseases, such as AIDS, SARS, or West Nile Virus. This is an excellent activity, which will encourage students to apply their knowledge of historical events to an issue that faces our world today.
Tile Regents Preparation Activity involves the creation of a thematic essay, which comprises approximately 25% of the Regents Examination in Global History and Geography. The bubonic plague is definitely a turning point in global history, which gives students knowledge they can apply to the exam.
a) Science: Students will learn how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
b) English: Students will read excerpts from Charles Darwin's book, Voyage of the Beagle.
c) Math: Students will devise charts and graphs showing the impact of pollution on the environment.
d) Library: Students will be able to gather and use information for research purposes.
State Standards Addressed:
SS3: Students will be able to analyze important environmental questions and issues.
ELA, 2 : Speaking and writing for critical analysis and evaluation.
Numeracy Skills Demonstrated:
MST 3: Students will use mathematical reasoning to make conjectures.
Other Skills Demonstrated:
Library research, group work
Students will write a letter to a member of an agency or organization responsible for a particular law or regulation pertaining to the environmental problem that their group researched, explaining why they think the law should be amended, changed entirely, or kept the way it is.
environmental problem that can be found in the
· Discuss the role of the government in trying to control further damage to the environment.
may use any environmental problem found in the
You are not limited to these suggestions.
Commentary on lesson:
We are presenting this lesson as an example of developing student centered, discovery based lessons that incorporate an interdisciplinary approach.
The Aim is arrived at from the Motivation. Student discussion on environmental problems and solutions to the problems enables the teacher to arrive at the aim.
The Discovery Procedure uses group work that involves student centered inquiry into environmental problems. The first activity puts students into cooperative learning groups to research a specific environmental problem. Students would use the internet to research their specific problem, focusing on questions given to them to guide their research. The students' research will lead them to conclusions and enable them to come up with a law or regulations to help ease their specific environmental problem.
In the second activity the groups present their findings to the rest of the class. A discussion would ensue leading to suggestions for laws and regulation to solve their specific environmental problem.
Interdisciplinary Connections are addressed to show that environmental problems can be covered in different disciplines. In science the survival of certain species depends on the environment. English skills are developed with reading and writing exercises based on The Voyage of the Beagle. Math skills develop charts and graphs that show the impact of pollution on animal life.
Supplementary Related Activities: This lesson suggests an activity that makes use of the students' research. Students have the necessary information to write to an agency responsible for their specific environmental problem pertaining to a law to help solve their environmental problem.
The Regents Practice Question at the end of the lesson was taken from a previous Regents examination in social studies. It serves to focus both the teacher's and students' attention on the importance of the lesson within the prescribed social studies curriculum.