Mortality, Burial, and Parental Attitudes
4 Collateral of the Plague: Children of the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Collateral of the Plague
Children of the Middle Ages and Renaissance
As the Middle Ages was a period of time marked by the plague, there was a remarkable decimation of the world population; a reduction from 450 million to about 350 million in the fourteenth century. In Europe alone the Black Death was estimated to have reduced the population from between thirty and sixty percent. As in other time periods, mortality among infants under the age of one year was high, and fifty percent of children did not make it to adult hood.1 As a disproportionate number of children were felled by the plague, a greater appreciation of the very young manifested in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.2
The Black Death of the Middle Ages was actually three different types of plague. The fatal form, septicemic, was spread by fleas, while the pneumonic variety was spread by coughing and sneezing. The bubonic plague, also caused by fleas, was more widespread, representing seventy-five percent of all cases of the plague; however, it was less deadly and less contagious. Incidences of the bubonic plague tended to rise over spring and summer.3 Because of misunderstandings of the nature ← 51 | 52 → of the different types of plague and the fear of contagion, the dead were often unceremoniously buried in pits.
While greater value was ascribed to children after the plague began to abate, some parents abandoned their children at the onset...
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