Did you know...and there'd be no reason why you should...that shoe styles changed after the Black Death? Instead of being ornate and elaborate they were plain and unadorned...just a simple piece of leather cut to fit the foot and fastened with a thin leather thong tied at the ankle. Most of the skilled shoemakers had died you see when the Black Death swept across Europe.
And the forests of Europe regenerated and became almost as thickly wooded as before...there were no hearty young men left to cut down the timber to build new houses or roof the castles...it's thought the forests of England took only one hundred years to become as they'd once been...filled with trees and a dense undergrowth which provided cover for the herds of wild pigs and deer.
I have to admit some surprise that so many of my ancestors appear to have escaped the Black Death...so far I've only found one family who were recorded as having died...and they were buried in a churchyard, but in a Plague Pit along with other victims in their village. There wouldn't have been the time nor the inclination to dig separate graves when so many were dying at once.
It must have been horrendous to see your family and friends and neighbours collapsing and dying within a few days with little or no hope of treatment knowing you could well be the next victim...it was thought by the Church to be a punishment from God for peoples sins, which can have been little comfort...but then illness was blamed on sin and the air you breathed. The miasma coming from the drains and from the rank and fetid rivers which were used as a dumping place for excrement and dead animals were blamed for most ailments...they had the right idea of course, but hadn't perfected the knowledge of transference through contact and had only a rudimentary idea about germs and the need for cleanliness...
Quite a few of my ancestors died from Smallpox and an alarming number died by their own hand...usually from cutting their own throats or drowning. And I'd so like to know why...the only one I can be certain of is a young man who cut his own throat because he wasn't allowed to marry the girl he'd fallen in love with...but the others? Their reasons are long lost.
I think Smallpox now only exists in Petrie dishes in chosen laboratories, but there was a time when it was relatively commonplace and I remember seeing elderly Indian men in Birmingham who bore Smallpox scars on their faces...they must have been the lucky ones who recovered. I found a baby yesterday who was only eleven months old when he died from the disease in the early 1700's.
From the Black Death to the outbreaks of Typhus and Cholera...the intrepid travellers overseas who died from Yellow Fever and Malaria...babies succumbing to diarrhoea and Scarlet Fever...gangrene setting in after a wound...your ancestors and mine lived lives fraught with disease which the physicians of the time were virtually powerless to help alleviate...if it couldn't be cured by bleeding or the application of leeches then there was little hope for you...though they did resort to hefty doses of Opium and its derivatives so I suppose at least you'd have died in peace.
I suppose I'd better think about supper...it won't be poached rabbit from the landlords warren or a piece of stolen sheep though...