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EpidemicsHate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS$
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Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198819660

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198819660.001.0001

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Black Death Persecution and Abandonment

Black Death Persecution and Abandonment

(p.48) 3 Black Death Persecution and Abandonment

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with the Black Death’s well-studied social toxins—the flagellant movement and the burning of Jews. It shows them not as the near-universal consequences of the plague, as often assumed, but confined to certain regions of Europe and almost exclusively described by chroniclers in German-speaking regions. The chapter concentrates on a less dramatic but more diffused horror described by Black Death commentators—the cruel abandonment of loved ones and the flight of trusted professionals. By examining a large body of contemporary texts, it challenges the orthodoxy that these assessments were literary devices to enhance the Black Death’s drama. More remarkable is how swiftly these horrors disappeared with subsequent waves of pestilence through the Renaissance. Instead of dividing societies as in 1348, processions and flagellant movements, such as the Bianchi, unified communities across sex, city and countryside, and social class in peace movements to eradicate litigation and factional conflict.

Keywords:   Black Death, Jews, flagellants, leprosy, abandonment, Bianchi, peace movements, processions, plague, chronicles, Renaissance

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