History of the Black Death – What Was the Bubonic Plague?

History of the Black Death - What Was the Bubonic Plague?

More people died during the Black Death pandemic that swept Europe between 1347 and 1351 than during any other documented epidemic or war up to that time.

It is largely accepted that Yersinia pestis infection led to bubonic plague, which is thought to have been the cause of the Black Death.

When 12 Black Sea ships anchored in the Sicilian port of Messina in October 1347, the plague began to spread over Europe.


The majority of the sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those who were still alive were critically ill and covered in black boils that dripped blood and pus, shocking the crowd assembled on the docks.

Authorities in Sicily hurriedly ordered the fleet of “death ships” out of the harbor, but it was already too late: over the next five years, the Black Death would claim the lives of more than 20 million people in Europe, accounting for nearly one-third of the continent’s population.

black death map

Before the “death ships” arrived in Messina, many Europeans had heard tales of a “Great Pestilence” that was wreaking havoc on the trade routes between the Near and Far East.

The illness had already spread to China, India, Persia, Syria, and Egypt in the early 1340s.

According to a recent study, the Black Death’s infection may have been present in Europe as early as 3000 B.C. The epidemic is assumed to have started in Asia around 2,000 years ago and was probably carried by commerce ships.

black death

The disease was never truly over; years later, it returned with a vengeance. However, authorities in the port city of Ragusa were able to stop the disease’s spread by isolating newly arrived sailors until it was certain they did not have the illness. This resulted in social isolation that helped to stop the disease’s spread.

The World Health Organization reports that there are still 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague each year even though there are antibiotics to treat the Black Death.


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Written by Rylan Santos

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