Tag Archives: DNA

The Black Death and a Jewish Holocaust

Jews are burned alive during the Black Death.
Image via Wikipedia

I have been reading The Scourging Angel by Benedict Gummer, which is an account of the Black Death in Britain. The books is well worth a look if you are interested in this period of history during the Middle Ages. One thing I came across that I didn’t know is what happened to Jewish populations in Europe when the Black Death began to sweep across the Continent.

Medieval Europeans didn’t know why the plague was upon them. Many Churchmen put the blame on man’s sin – it was God’s divine punishment. But lay people however had more down to earth suspicions and decided that there were being maliciously attacked. Rumours spread that wells were being poisoned by enemies. And enemies in Medieval Europe usually meant the Jews, who were seen as outsiders and subject to myths such as the blood libel (the murder of children), the murder of Christ and well poisoning. The stresses of the Black Death turned people’s attentions to people who were seen as outsiders living amongst them and as the plague spread so did the attacks on Jews.

The Church did try to stop this – indeed Jews were protected by Papal order, but these orders were ignored (the Church was not all powerful in the Middle Ages).

In scenes chillingly similar to what would happen under the Nazis whole populations of Jews were slaughtered. For example in Strasbourg the burning of Jews lasted for six days. This was not just people attacking Jews opportunistically where they found them, but an organized slaughter of every Jew that the city authorities could get hold of.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Black Death genome nearly found

I came across this fascinating piece of news this morning in the TheSpec.com about work being done to track down the genetic pattern of the virus that caused the Black Death in the fourteenth century.

Here’s a bit more information from the full article:

‘The principal investigator at McMaster University’s ancient DNA centre says his team has found a match confirming that Yersina pestis, the source of the modern bubonic plague, is also behind the Black Death plague that ravaged medieval Europe.

‘Associate professor Hendrik Poinar, who is also Canada’s research chair in paleogenetics, is excited the finding may one day lead to the discovery of the Black Death plague’s entire genome so scientists “can have the history of the development of this bug and the changes in it that made it so deadly.”’

Perhaps once the genetic code is cracked some time traveller boffins could go back and help prevent the outbreak? How would history have been different? Hmm, sounds like an idea for a story!

To read more visit TheSpec.com