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Though the result of the Black Plague is initially deterioration seen in Boccaccios Decameron the decline stimulates efforts at reform and renewal In 1798 the English clergyman Thomas Malthus published the first edition of his influential Essay on the Principle of Population In it Malthus concludes that the plague does not end western culture On the contrary the plague allows it to flourish and ensures its survival Boccaccio provides a wealth of information about the plague in his Decameron The book is set in 1338 the year the plague struck Florence Seven women and three men flee the plague in the city for the safety of a country villa On their ten-day journey to the villa each of the travelers entertains the others with a story The result is a set of one hundred tales framed within the larger story of the travelers journey Boccaccio writes realistically and lyrically of the horror of the plague He allows each of his characters a distinct voice to tell stories of charm sadness bawdiness mystery and drama The plague and the death resulting from it are two major motifs in the Decameron It can be argued that the Black Plague of 1338 and 1339 was the most devastating natural disaster to ever strike the European continent The populations of some cities and villages as far removed from each other as in England and Italy fall by over seventy or eighty percent by the end of the plague By 1420 Europe can only boast about a third of its population compared to what it could only one hundred years before To truly understand the plague and its devastation one must understand its origins In the early 1340s the plague moves westward along the silk route and penetrates the Mongol Khanate of the Golden Horde Yet it is still contained within the great Eurasian landmass At this time many Europeans begin to hear tales of a great plague
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