The Black Death: the Plague that Sowed Terror and Death in Medieval Europe - Part 1
Transmission and Spread of the Bubonic Plague
All indications suggest that the bubonic plague was transmitted via boats and caravans containing infected people, rats, and fleas. Large commercial cities were the main destinations and thus the centers of spreading the plague through waterways and popular land routes. With the data available today we know that the spread by sea could exceed 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) per day, while on land ranging between 0.3- 1.2 miles (0.5 -2 kilometers) a day.
Although many fled to the countryside, the fact was that cities were safer because, as has been noted, the progression of infectious diseases is slower in nuclei with higher density of population. Such escapes just led to greater spread of the disease, not freedom from its grasp.
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As to the number of deaths caused by the bubonic plague in Europe, we can now say that the mortality rate for the population was likely close to 60%.
In the Iberian Peninsula, for example, the data indicates that the population fell from 6 million to 2.5 million. In southern France records confirm that died between 55% -70% of notaries. These percentages were similar to death rates for members of the English clergy. Meanwhile, in Tuscany almost 60% of the population died of the plague, Florence and its over 90,000 inhabitants were cut down to just 60,000. In absolute terms, of the 80,000,000 people who inhabited Europe in 1346, there were only 30 million left just seven years later, in 1353.
Of the 80,000,000 people who inhabited Europe in 1346, only 30 million remained in 1353 because of the plague."Dance Macabre" by Michael Wolgemut. ( Wikimedia Commons )
Featured image: Truck loaded with plague victims in Elliant drawn by a woman with tattered clothes. Moynet lithograph based on Duveau’s Collections. ( Wikimedia Commons )
Coming next in Part 2: The Deadly Bacteria behind the Bubonic Plague
Author: Mariló TA
This article was first published in Spanish at www.ancient-origins.es and has been translated with permission.
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