Certain Certainties

Davy Carren
4 min readMar 29, 2020

The Black Death reared its bulbous head in or around 1347,

carried to Italy by parasitic fleas on brown rats.

It gave you black boils like an onion head on your armpits and groin

and covered its victims like ashy seeds of black peas.

Some people vomited blood.

Almost everybody died.

There were 3 plagues having a romp with humans back then;

besides the bubonic one,

they had themselves pneumonic and septicaemic ones too,

which were fatal about, oh, let’s say roughly 75% of the time.

Oh, and they were entering a “little ice age”

of colder and longer winters around this time.

And did I mention the two Europe-wide famines of 1316 and 1317?

Having food to eat every day wasn’t a given.

The doctors had no idea about bacteria,

and the level of sanitation in this era was…


let’s just say there wasn’t a whole lot of handwashing going on.

Every time new cases of the plague arose,

people fled in a panic,

spreading the disease further.

Florence lost 50,000 of its 85,000 residents to the disease.

Carts piled high with corpses became a common sight on the streets.

Most citizens did nothing much else except carry dead bodies to a burial pit all day.

There were no stimulus checks handed out to the masses.

Toilet paper hadn’t been invented yet.

But afterwards personal piety flourished,

people began to question authority,

serfdom was abandoned for wages,

women gained some property rights,

feudalism went way out of style,

and almost everyone began to donate to charity.

25–30 million people died during the plague’s 5-year stay.