Between 1347-1351 AD that the plague lasted, upto 200 Million are expected to have lost their lives – almost the present total population of Brazil.
When people got infected with the plague, they are reported to have large black tumours on their body and when they died, they released a putrid pus that made their dead bodies look worse than zombies.
In some cities, more than 90% of the population got infected and died. There was nobody left to bury the bodies.
Here is how the plague impacted the people and the economy:
- There was an acute shortage of labour and craftsmen. Their wages rose by 300% as compared to pre-plague times.
- The demand for luxury goods like silk and fur increased because the survivors had seen the worst – now they were ready to break the shell and relish life.
- Interest rates across Europe declined for almost two centuries!
- The rise in wealth helped people across Europe, Asia and North Africa improve their diet and nutrition.
- Before the plague, Southern Europe was more developed as compared to Northern and Western Europe. After the plague, it was the Northern and Western Europe that picked up wealth and development faster.
- In parts of Europe, the reduction of the population gave women the opportunity to participate in the labour force in stark contrast to the pre-plague times.
- The states of Genoa and Venice, both leaders in maritime trade from Italy, were involved competition and infighting to gain control of the spice trade.
While the mortality rate of COVID-19 is thankfully much lower than the Black Plague, we can draw some parallels.
- The adverse impact on the economy may be temporary but strong recovery is imminent. When restrictions lighten and the virus disappears, will we experience a spike in luxury spends?
- Funds are not changing hands today. Will lower interest rates and increase in supply of money allow more businesses to set up and existing ones to borrow cheaply?
- The Black Plague finally dispersed and disappeared because people reduced social interaction. Let us not take social distancing lightly.
- India has the opportunity to lead change and grow provided we focus on innovation and business rather than catastrophising social issues.
- The labour which has returned to villages may not come back cheap. Will this lead to a cascading increase in the prices of property, goods and services?