The Canterbury Tales Historical Context

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The Black Plague

During Chaucer's lifetime, the Black Plague swept across Europe, causing hundreds of thousands of people to die in a gruesome way and changing the way that common citizens looked at mortality. The plague originated in the north of India during the 1330s and spread quickly, affecting much of Asia by the mid-1340s. Its spread to Europe was no accident. Mongol-Tartar armies, in an attempt to discourage Italian trade caravans from crossing their territory on their way to and from China, catapulted bodies of infected victims over the walls of their fortresses at the Italians, who subsequently brought the disease back to their country.

While carrying on their trade, they infected other travelers, who carried the disease to the most crowded cities on the continent. The plague struck Spain and France in 1348 and reached England the following year. By the time that The Canterbury Tales...

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This section contains 1,061 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Canterbury Tales Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
The Canterbury Tales from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.