From 1347 to 1351, The Black Death (The “Plague”) originated in Central Asia. The Plague swept through Asia, Europe and Africa by way of Mediterranean Trade Routes. The Plague was at its worst between 1347 and 1351.
The Plague followed the Mediterranean trade routes from China to Europe and Africa.
The Plague was likely caused by a bacteria, YersiniaPestis. Infected rats would carry fleas that would become infected. The disease was then passed on to humans through flea bites.
A flea like this would carry the bacteria and then the disease was passed on to humans through flea bites. Image can be found at legendofpineridge.blogspot.com
Symptoms included nausea, vomiting, headaches, fever, purple patches on the skin, and blood in sputum. Image found at news.asiantown.net
Four out of five died within eight days of showing symptoms. Image found at africanstarline.net
Historians estimate that the world’s population may have been reduced by 100 million people. Prior to the Plague, the world population was about 450 million.
China lost about half of its population. Europe lost about one-third of its population. Africa lost about one-eighth of its population.
The Black Death was more devastating in areas with high population density which explains why it was less prolific in Africa. Russia was also less affected perhaps due to its cold climate and size.
As people saw the disease spread faster in cities, many moved to the countryside where they believed that they would be safer.
Because the cause of the Black Death was not known, and healers could do little to help the afflicted, several attempts were made to stop the spread.
Monks and priests cared for the afflicted in monasteries, but were therefore more likely to get sick themselves. Image found atoldphotosbombay.blogspot.com
In many European communities, Christians believed that Jews were the cause and they blamed them for poisoning wells. In France, some Jewish communities were exterminated, and some were burned alive. Image can be found at aia-themiddleages.blogspot.com
As terrible as the Black Death was, there were some changes that were beneficial.
In Europe, so many workers died, that the Nobles who owned the land were forced to pay higher wages to attract workers. In other words, as the supply of workers went down, the wages they demanded went up. Image found at westcivprojecttrasatti.blogspot.com
Also, farms were forced to increase efficiency. Fewer workers meant that more advanced farming tools had to be used to work the land. Plots also grew larger due to population loss. Image found at francegallery.blogspot.com
Although the Plague was most severe in the 14th century, it came back in parts of Europe until the 17th century. Each time it killed fewer people. Historians believe that there may have been two reasons for this.
First, natural selection may have helped. This means that people who were naturally able to fend off the disease passed their genes to their offspring resulting in a population that was less likely to contract the disease.
Second, hygiene habits and efforts to improve public health and sanitation had a significant impact on the falling rates of infection.