Key Stage 3 History: Medieval Life 2: The Black Death – causes

Here is the second in a new series of Key Stage 3 History blogs on Medieval Life. In blog 2 we look at the causes of the Black Death.

The Black Death – Causes

I’m sorry, I can’t stop crying. We hadn’t even buried poor Richard when little Eileen fell ill. Two of my four children gone. How can I keep the others safe?

The problem is no one knows what causes the Black Death. It depends who you listen to. And how superstitious you are. How rational are you? I really don’t know who to believe. I know. I’ll tell you all the different beliefs and you can tell me which you think is correct.

Many people believe it is a punishment from God. Priests keep telling us God is fed up with our ways and he is sending the plague to remind us of how we should behave. Some people even go so far as to whip themselves. They are called flagellants apparently. I’ve heard that they seem to think that if they punish themselves, God won’t give them the plague.

Other people blame foreigners, or anyone who follows a different religion to us. All of England is Christian so it is easy to pick out the foreigners. I’ve heard reports of them being beaten up in the streets or even burnt.

And other people believe the plague is caused by bad air. It poisons the body. King Edward III himself believes this. He’s even ordered the Lord Mayor of London to have the streets cleaned to get rid of the bad smells.

Which of those causes do you believe? I don’t dare say what I think because I’ll be condemned for heresy! Ok, I’ll tell you. But you have to promise not to say a word to anyone. I think the King is closest. But I think it’s not the smell from the rubbish in the streets, it’s the rubbish itself. Where there’s rubbish, there are rats. And where there are rats, there is plague. It can’t be coincidence can it? Isn’t that why the rich people aren’t catching it? Because their houses and streets are cleaner? Please don’t tell anyone I’ve said this. If the local priest hears that I’m questioning that it’s all part of God’s plan I’ll be in so much trouble! The power of the church is formidable, you know.

Penny Brooks


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