Black Death
6th Grade Black Death Inquiry
Can Disease Change the World?
Download Entire Inquiry Here
In this staging task, teachers may begin the inquiry by helping students understand that disease is a part of our everyday modern life and that the implications of the compelling question, “Can disease change the world?” are as wellMaps depicting the spread of the Black Death, 2015
Supporting Question 3- How did the Black Death affect people in the 14th century?
  • Source A: Data bank: Bubonic plague statistics

  • Source B: Hartmann Schedel, illustration of the persecution of Jews during the Black Death, The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493
  • Source C: Leonard W. Courie, description of the effects of the plague, Social and Economic Effects of the Plague, 1972 NOTE: This text is modified from the original.
    The plague had many effects. People abandoned their friends and family. They even fled cities and shut themselves off from the world. Some people stopped working. So many people died, they even stopped having funerals. Some fought the plague with prayer and by living a more religious life. However, many priests died and prayers went unanswered. Overall, people’s faith in religion decreased during the Black Death. 
    The economy was affected as well. Inflation rose and productivity declined. It was difficult (and dangerous) to engage in trade and to produce goods. That caused the price of goods to rise. There were not enough replacement workers to take over from workers who died. Serfs were no longer tied to one master. A serf who left the land would be instantly hired by another lord. The lords had to make changes in order to keep their estates. Because of the lack of workers, wages (what people earned) actually went up. In general, wages outpaced prices and the standard of living was increased.
    As the feudal system began to crumble, new distinctions among people emerged. The fashions of the nobility became more extravagant in order to emphasize their social standing. The peasants were more empowered. They even began to revolt when the nobles attempted to resist the changes brought about by the Black Death. In 1358, the peasantry of northern France rioted. From 1378 to 1381, a series of rebellions challenged the feudal system. The social and economic structure of Europe was drastically changed as a result of the Black Death.
    From Decameron Web, Department of Italian Studies, Brown University, Virtual Humanities Lab. Used with permission.


New York State Social Studies Framework Key Idea & Practices 6.7 INTERACTIONS ACROSS THE EASTERN HEMISPHERE (ca. 600 CE–ca. 1450): Trade networks promoted the exchange and diffusion of language, belief systems, tools, intellectual ideas, inventions, and diseases.
 Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence    Geographic Reasoning   Comparison and Contextualization

In addition to the Key Idea listed earlier, this inquiry highlights the following Conceptual Understanding:
6.7a The Silk Roads, the Indian Ocean, and the Trans-Saharan routes formed the major Afro-Eurasian trade networks connecting the East and the West. Ideas, people, technologies, products, and diseases moved along these routes.