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8HI T2 - Black Death: Home

Historical inquiry developing a greater knowledge and understanding of the Black Death

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Dance of the Dead

Children are not frequent subjects of medieval art, but the figure of the child does occur in a medieval artistic and literary form known as the Danse macabre or Dance of the Dead. Originating before 1348, this art form was not the result of the plague epidemics, but medieval artists found the iconic image a useful means to express the morbid and anxious views of death prevalent in the later medieval and early modern periods. Poems and murals painted on the walls of churches depicted Death, portrayed by skeletons, as drawing all members of society, from the highest secular and religious officials, down to the lowest, such as the peasant, beggar, and child, into a deadly dance to the grave. The human subjects express their dismay as intractable Death is not swayed by their riches or pleas for mercy. Although, again, this artistic form is not directly related to plague, it can be noted for our purposes that it is death that separates the child from his or her family and not the family that has abandoned the child to die.



Marchant, Guy. La danse macabre. Paris, 1485. Facsimile. Annotated by Shona Kelly Wray.


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Suggested web sites

Illustration of the Black Death from the Toggenburg Bible (1411)

Primary source suggestions

Primary source materials are first-hand accounts typically produced at the time of the event. Examples might include artwork, plays, poems, songs, letters, journals and writings from that time period.

Reference generator

It is important that you show your teacher you used a variety of reliable resources. Use the online Reference Generator available through the Portal to create your citations. Make sure you alphabetically sort them afterwards.

A sample bibliography for 3 resources provided on this page would look like:

The Black Death n.d., Science Museum, accessed 4 May 2016,


Black Death 2016. Britannica School. Retrieved 4 May 2016, from

Robson, P 1996, All About The Great Plague, MacDonald, Hove.