English Documentary on Plague with Transcript & Flashcards to perfect your reading and listening abilities and expand your academic and scientific vocabulary
Source of documentary: National Geographic YouTube Channel
Source of image: https://www.express.co.uk/
Table of Contents
What is plague?
Plague is notorious for causing mass sickness and devastation. But as much tragedy as the disease has caused, it also helped drive crucial scientific and social progress.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia Pestis. It mainly affects rodents and spreads by way of insects. Because of these insect carriers, plague has been passed onto humans with devastating consequences.
Three major plague pandemics have occurred in human history, and while they occurred centuries apart, they shared similar traits that paved the way for the spread of disease. One cause of plague pandemics was the rise of international trade. Trade routes connected once-isolated communities, and created large economic networks. But by facilitating the movement of goods between communities, trade routes also facilitate the movement of germs.
Economic boom and plague
International trade was an impetus for the first plague pandemic on record, the plague of Justinian. In the sixth century, outbreak began in Egypt, and thanks to land an sea trade routes, they spread throughout the Byzantine Empire. Named after the emperor at the time, the plague of Justinian is estimated to have wiped out about half of Europe’s population.
Urbanization and plague
Growing economies also made way for urbanization and a rise in urban population. This resulted in crowded neighborhoods and the accumulation of waste, which created unsanitary living conditions. Cities and their residents essentially became incubators for germs and diseases.
The origin of Black Death
This was particularly evident in the second and most infamous plague pandemic. In the 14th century, Europe was experiencing and economic and population boom, especially in cities. Proper waste management did not exist at the time, making cities vulnerable to disease.
After trade routes brought plague from Asia, where it killed millions in China and the Middle East, the disease wiped out about a third of Europe’s population, earning itself the moniker, the Black Death.
With also aided in the transmission of the disease was the lack of medical knowledge. For most of human history, the cause of illnesses, germs, was unknown, making sicknesses like plague a mystery. This lack of knowledge drove the spread of disease as recently as the 19th century.
The most widespread pandemic in history
Outbreaks in northeast India eventually reached major port cities in China. In just over a century, plague was exported throughout the globe and caused outbreaks in every continent except Antarctica, making it the most widespread pandemic in history. This plague pandemic, however, was the last.
In 1894, scientists discovered the bacteria behind the plague outbreaks. Their discovery made further developments in microbiology, medicine, urban planning and sanitation methods, which led to the treatment and prevention of the disease.
Economic expansion, urbanization, and a lack of medical knowledge contributed to the disastrous spread of plague. In turn, however, the disease helped catapult crucial advancements in science and public health, very well making plague pandemics a thing of the past.