How pandemics have changed the world, from feudalism to remote work



The bubonic plague, or “Black Death” (1347 – 1351), killed so many people that the standard of living improved for the survivors. It is also the second largest economic contraction in UK history, according to a Deutsche Bank report.

Image of people praying for relief from bubonic plague, circa 1350.

Hulton Archives / Getty Images

A Deutsche Bank report Looking at the economic contractions in the UK dating back to 1271, it was noted that the second largest was during the Black Death. The economy contracted 23.5% in 1349.

“The death rate from the bubonic plague outbreak was well above today’s pandemic then, with Bank of England data set showing England’s population fell from 4.81 million in 1348 to only 2.60 million in 1351, a reduction of more than 40% in the space of 3 years. But this shows that pandemics have gone hand in hand with major economic contractions throughout history ”, noted Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank.

About 60% of the European population has died as a result of the plague. As Bloomberg’s Andy Mukherjee notes, he killed so many people that the standard of living actually improved for the survivors. Indeed, there was a greater upward mobility thereafter, and some historians consider that it the beginning of the long decline of serfdom.

Black death was also a turning point in the intensification of European prejudices and sectarianism against minorities, especially Jews and Roma.

The cholera pandemic (1817 – 1823) highlighted the importance of adequate and modern sanitation and the consequences of the inequality of wealth between countries.


A modern hotel marble bathroom.

Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Cholera, at first, illustrated the the importance of modern sanitation, given its transmission through contaminated food or water. As it has persisted in the world’s poorest countries and has become its oldest pandemic, cholera highlights the dire consequences of wealth inequality. It still affects millions of people today, largely oriented towards countries lacking social development.

The HIV / AIDS epidemic that continues to this day has brought visibility to members of the LGBTQ community, which has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

A person with a colorful wig shows off their condom ears in a campaign titled

A person with a colorful wig shows off his condom ears in a campaign titled “Condoms are sexy” on condom day.

Jair Cabrera Torres / picture alliance / Getty Images

HIV / AIDS, which first erupted in the 1980s, continues to impact the lives of people today and its negative influence on the world economy is still under investigation. This has had a massive social impact as the global LGBTQ community has become vocal and visible in unprecedented ways due to the inordinate impact on its members.

Ebola, which began in 2014, is estimated to have cost a total of $ 4.3 billion.


Workers bury the body of an Ebola victim.

Jérôme Delay / AP Photo

Inward investment has fallen dramatically in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a result of the Ebola epidemic. Like swine flu, it was zoonotic, moving from animal species to humans, as the coronavirus appears to have done.


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