Black Death Theory

1581 Words7 Pages
The outbreak of the pandemic known as the Black Death in 1347 brought to Europe devastation unlike any other on record which demanded immediate action in both treating and preventing further spread of the disease. Firstly this essay will examine the causes and diagnoses of the disease. Following this, there will be an investigation of the precautions implemented in an attempt to stop the spread of infection, such as quarantine and the understanding of contagion. Furthermore, there will be an argument that the Black Death can be seen as a normal accident according to Normal Accident Theory. Finally there will be a discussion on how the Black Death’s implementation of quarantine relates to the precautionary principle and how we deal with epidemics…show more content…
While it is difficult to argue what exact system would have caused the Black Death, there are evidently many contributing factors that lead to its spread and devastation. If we take human society to be the system that contributed to the pandemic, then it is inarguably complex, involving countless interactions and potential failings that could lead to catastrophic disaster. As Perrow mentions, these systems are tightly coupled, meaning they leave little room for failures within the system without causing subsequent effects on the rest of the system (Perrow, 1984). These exact complex systems are the ones that Perrow argues lead to inevitable or normal accidents. In the case of the Black Death’s spread, the system is of human interaction being a long and unbreakable chain of actions, including overseas travel leading to further spreading of the infection. Once one person has been infected and come into contact with others, it is too late to prevent the others from further contacts, and by the time the disease was diagnosable the outbreak was already uncontrollable. In this sense, the pandemic can be seen as a normal accident, inevitable through a system that did not allow for any slack or quarantine measures, due to the absence of understanding when it came to the disease’s cause, treatment and nature of contraction from one…show more content…
(Fuller, 2013). If we look at this alongside the Black Death, we see that it would have been highly unlikely the disease could have been predicted to spread so quickly and cause so much death, but if they had developed the methods of quarantine in earlier stages it could have prevented substantial damage. As Fuller argues, risk taking is essential to the progress of humanity. (Fuller, 2013). This is certainly evident in the case of the Black Death, as the risk after the outbreaks was the total extinction of the human race, but more effective medicine and particularly the importance of quarantine and understanding of contagion were accelerated greatly by this risk that humanity might be wiped out. Of course, it is impossible to weigh the lives lost in the Black Death against the benefits to humanity that it produced, even if we consider how many lives were spared due to these early medical advancements. Thus produces the difficulty of the precautionary principle, which is the underlying question: is it acceptable to risk lives in order to possibly save others and advance humanities’ progress? It is impossible to know how quickly medicine would have advanced without the occurrence of the Black Death. Perhaps
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