ken’s Blog

Plague DBQ

This is a plague DBQ that I wrote for my AP euro class. A DBQ(document based questioning) is an essay written in a certain prompt to answer a question about the plague. From this you assess a set of given documents and incorperate these documents in your response as support information. Although it sounds fairly simple, DBQ’s within AP EURO are very strict when it comes to following rubrics. Certain details such as whether the essay has enough paragraphs or whether the essay has enough point of view statements. However, this rubric only forms a mold for us in which we have to fill ourselves.  I’m sure it represents my knowledge and skills academically

Plague DBQ


 In the 14th century, a new disease emerged which soon to be was named “Black Death”.  Theories speculate that it originated within central Asia or Northern India. None the less, the disease created wide struck panic throughout Europe. During October of 1347 Genoese traders arrived at the port of Messina. However, these traders were far from healthy or typical. They carried black swells the size of apples which released puss and blood. From that day on 7 infective waves occurred within Europe between 1347 and 1400 killing 25 – 50 million people. During this dark era, people ran like headless chickens in fear, no religious officials or medical physicians could truly grasp the concept of the plague leaving the people concerned to the extent that some believed that the end of the world was nearing.

People reacted to the plague with mass fear. Anarchy ran loose and leadership was spread thin within most towns and villages. Many of these leadership issues were caused from the rich nobles leaving. For example, the French Author Nicolas Versoris explains Paris’s situation; “… the rich fled” (Doc 3) while the poor such, such as the “porters and wage-earners, who had lived there in large numbers” (Doc 3) were left to die. Nicolas, being an author, while also being able to live long to write of the plague in Paris, may have easily been one of the wealthy nobles which fled from the early signs. Those who were poor and infected were confined to their villages and or homes. “Whatever house the pestilence visited was immediately nailed up… many died of hunger in their own houses… all roads and highways were guarded so that a person could not pass from once place to another”(Doc 5) as put by Heinrich von Staden, who was a rich traveler, probably having encountered several of these roadblocks or devastated villages. This increased entrapment easily prompted riots/rebellion for those who saw no hope. The beliefs of people quickly fell and people lost faith in everything “what if the sickness should come into this house? Who would I be willing to give up to the disease?”(Doc 8) written in a puritan’s diary showing their concerns for the end of their lives. Many who were still free of the plague were extremely concerned about receiving it and took many precautions. ”nobody will dare to buy any wig, for fear of the infection…”(Doc 13) was written in a English naval bureaucrat’s diary. A schoolmaster in the Netherlands wrote about his school “It is full again but the plague, which killed twenty of the boys, drove many others away and doubtless kept some others from coming to us at all.”(Doc 1) As you can see, these concerns developed from widespread panic had effects ranging from education to sales.

Society was in a state of disorder and chaos; many eager workers quickly converted this chaos into lucrative opportunities. Many of these opportunities relied on the deaths of others. One very interesting case would be at Casale. “… Smeared the bolts of the town gates with an ointment to spread the plague … in order to obtain their inheritances more quickly.”(Doc 4) As documented by Johann Weyer, a German physician. In some recorded diaries even nurses would “… make the patients die more quickly, because the sooner they died, the sooner the nurses collected the fees…”(doc 11) showing the how corrupt the medical system could be when confronted with money. This idea coming from a dairy holds much value due to the actually self reflection and though of their actions. Many others were paid to paid in order to quarantine the sick “gold for the expense of the pest houses to quarantine the diseased”(Doc 6). Along with these lucrative deals, the honest merchants had a bit more trouble. “The trading nations of Europe were all afraid of us; no port of France, or Holland … would admit our ships”(Doc 14). The plague had of course decimated any foreign trade that had taken place. Wig vendors had trouble selling their goods “nobody will dare to buy any wig” (Doc 13). Fear of the plague depraved the European economy of all its growth. However, it did eventually bring around many positive aspects including the rise of the middle class due to a higher demand of labor and a focus on internalization instead of foreign trading dependencies. While chaos continued to persist, religiously and medically affiliated personnel tried to explain this phenomenon.

Both physicians and high religious officials tried to explain the plague, both with very little success. Some of the physicians had turned to classical medicines “Plague-sticken patients hang around their neck toads, either dead or alive” (Doc 10) However, they were unassailably wrong. Others came close to the correct answer “The plague and sickness in England is due to the filth in the streets and the sputum and dog’s urine clogging…” (Doc 2) In this case they were not educated well enough to truly explain the causes of the plague. M. Bertrand a physician at Marseilles was so clueless about the causes of the plague he from there believed in a religious answer “the plague must be considered a particular chastisement exercised by an angry God” (Doc 16). Along with medical physicians, the people began to turn to religion in belief for an answer as well “Sister Angerlica… sent me a little piece of bread that touched the body of St. Domenica. I fed it to my husband and suddenly the fever broke.” (Doc 7) was in the legal deposition of and Italian housewife, however, she has no legitimate background in medicines and or even identifying the plague, instead this could have just been a simple cold or in fact her husband could have not been sick at all. However, even though many people turned to religion for an answer that wasn’t even there. Many of the priests were prone to catch the plague leaving the church clueless off the true causes of the plague.

The plague, of course at first looks, seemed to have been a true ill omen of fear and death. However, after many years of undeniable changes the plague had created many beneficial means to European society. Firstly it created the middle class, the rich business men or merchants which were developed due to a lack of labour and other lucrative opportunities. These middle class men lived a life of luxury compared to the poor and began to contest nobles as shown in many of the Italian city states during the renaissance. It also weakened the church’s power allowing the growth in monarchy. This growth in monarchy also allowed eventually nationalistic development including economic growth, and strengthened foreign policies.



  1. I remember when you wrote this DBQ-first one in Euro. This is a great example of Academic Discourse, it contains a formulaic, set style, is informative, and completes its goal-to convey your learning of the topic, for your history class.
    Your thesis is kinda random and hard to follow, as it doesn’t completely “round up” the rest of the essay. Use of documents could be smoother.
    If I were you, I would have entered one of your later DBQs, since you have had experience since this time. (Not saying this one’s bad, but you have some really good ones from later.)

    Comment by Stephen Peyton — December 16, 2008 @ 12:40 am

  2. An articulate essay…I really like the points brought out concerning people that wanted to spread the plauge for there own personal such as nurses so they could get paid or people trying to get there inheritance sooner. The imagery is effective in the beggining especially with the line “carried black swells the size of apples which released puss and blood.” The middle is rather dull, but you have to incorporate the documents somewhere-however the voice and imagery at the end of the paper is engaging as well

    Comment by titans39 — December 16, 2008 @ 11:43 pm

  3. Hey, I remember this DBQ. The first one Gotterson made us do, right?
    Your essays not up to par with mine, but you might get there. Eventually.

    Comment by J — January 22, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  4. Hi! thanks for share! 🙂

    Comment by bureaucrat's — June 4, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

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