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The European Plague

            From the fifteenth through the eighteenth century Europe, people responded to the Plague with fear (by avoiding infected areas), superstition (with religious beliefs and remedies of the disease), and exploitation (taking advantage of the poor, sick and dying for money). A significant change over time in development of reactions can be seen throughout these documents and through analyzing the various beliefs and concerns. .
             The plague caused the people fear because of the contagiousness and rapid spread of the disease. Because of this, there was a common tendency demonstrated in all the documents pertaining to fear to avoid places or anything that is infected or has a risk of being infected by the plague. A schoolmaster at Deventer described how his school was "full again but the plague, which killed twenty of the boys, [and] drove many others away" (Doc. 1). The purpose of the letter that the school master was writing is likely due to his concern for his job, because he cannot run a school if there are no students, due to people avoiding infected areas. In Document 8, Nehemiah Wallington, an English puritan, describes her fear for the plague in her diary, asking how "What would I be willing to give up to the disease? [] My son John. [] My daughter Elizabeth". From her point of view, the plague is the object to be most feared because she could lose not only her children to the sickness, but herself as well. With Document 12, Sir John Reresby describes how he was "ready to set forth in Italy" with other travelers but the "plague was now violent in Rome, which discouraged all gentlemen". The fear of the plague caused many travelers to avoid venturing to places that the disease had spread. Document 13 further demonstrates the precautions due to the fear of the plague by stating how "nobody will dare to buy any wig, for fear of infection, that the hair had been cut off the heads of people dead of the plague".

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