Sunday, 18 October 2015

pocket full of posey

I was under the macabre but rather straightforward assumption that the Renaissance and subsequent Enlightenment movement came as a direct result of Italian merchants introducing the Plague, the Black Death to Europe (with some eighty percent morality for its first iterations but later waning before consuming itself). Easing a populace that was struggling to sustain itself, massive depopulation created opportunities not normally afforded to the peasant class and people suddenly became creative and inventive. Never mind the trauma and the reduced labour force—but there you go. The chain of causation, of course, is not that linear—if anything more than tenuous at all. As the pestilence raged, irrespective of rank, most countries in Europe (notably, the Low Countries did not impose such controls to their wages and really excelled for it in terms of trade and exploration) immediately began to impose economic safeguards in order to preserve the status of the aristocracy as the farm and field fell to neglect as whole villages died off.
Amidst the chaos, specie was devalued and although some rural labourers and sailors did find more coin in their purses, it’s purchasing-power had been rolled-back to below levels experienced under a recession. Upward-mobility was discouraged and the peasants did not have the wherewithal to stage a rebellion for generations—and there was a baby-boom following each visitation. Religious art and expression flourished in the aftermath, but with a focus specifically to remember the dead. Aside from funerary adornments, the university of Cambridge and innumerable foundations and charity hospitals were founded—parallel to the social safety-net that the Church was providing, and these institutions remain to this day—to honour the departed. These enduring memorials represent a wedge of sorts that cleaves the Plague years away from the way the ages of history unfolds later. The notion that dread disease might have an original other than volcanic gasses in Hyperborea, comets, eclipses was not revealed for nearly eight centuries later, and whatever leechcraft or superstition that the successful physicians applied were very much against the received wisdom from the Ancients. Smugly, these practitioners dismissed the writings of Galen and Hypocrates for being ill-prepared to handle an epidemic, and ushered in another age of charm and scepticism, diametrically opposed to the hallmarks of the Renaissance which sought to thoroughly inspect and embrace the Classics. Although proximity in time may not be a sufficient cause, the Renaissance began in earnest in Florence, most agree with the ancient texts and lost sources being brought by Greek refugees fleeing from the Ottoman conflict, not far from where the Plague first made land-fall.