History 2812E: The Black Death in Europe and the Middle East
I. The Plague as Pandemic
Questions to Keep in Mind:
What was the plague of the 14 century? How did people respond to it? How important is this change,
is it a major turning point in history?
Michele da Piazza
– 14 Century Chronicler
– “In the first days of October 1347, twelve Genoese galleys fleeing
before the wrath of our Lord over their wicked deeds, entered
the port of Messina. The sailors brought in their bones a
disease so violent that whoever spoke a word to them was
infected and could in no way save himself from death …
Those to whom the disease was transmitted by infection of the
breath was stricken with pains all over the body and felt a
terrible lassitude. There then appeared, on the thigh or an
arm, a pustule like a lentil. From this the infection penetrated
the body and violent bloody vomiting began. It lasted for a
period of three days and there was no way of preventing its
ending in death.”
This quote is representative of most things written about the plague.
– This is a very aggressive disease. Pain, Violent bloody vomit.
– The author suggests that this disease came about for a reason “wrath of our lord over their
– Some kind of judgement for peoples actions.
We know that it did arrive on the shores of europe. It was a pandemic. Pandemic means: it spreads
through nearly the entire continent of europe and into the middle east. Wiped out 1/4 -1/3 of european
Referred to it as the great pestilence. (Was never called the black death at the time), also called the
Now we call it the bubonic plague.
(The first plague as pandemic was the plague of justinian because it spreads through the mediterranean)
• 541-c.760 - The Plague of Justinian (First Pandemic); epidemic throughout
Mediterranean – probably bubonic plague (Prof says it is important to note it is the first pandemic
noted and it has a pattern of bubonic plague. We know what we know because of Procopius [this was in
the other lecture]. He is really shocked by the outbreak of plague. It kills 40% of constantinople's
• 1315-1317 - Famine in northern Europe
• 1331 - Plague reported in China
• 1338-9 - Plague in Issyk Kul (centralAsia)
• 1339-40 - Famine in southern Europe (Population is weakened)
• 1346 - Plague reaches the Crimea
• Fall 1347 - The Black Death (Second Pandemic) begins Scholars say that the black death was a water shed event. Look at its timing and geography and
how many people experienced it and died from it. For that reason it is important to remember.
• 1894 - Third Pandemic of bubonic plague in China and India;Alexandre
Yersin identifies the plague bacillus – Yersinia pestis; serum against the bubonic
plague proven successful in following years
• 1896-1914 - Continued research identifies full epidemiology of bubonic plague bacillus
1347-1350 Black Death
Great impact on the people. Great shock and great horror. One chronicler said that so many people died
that many people thought it was the end of the world. It was thought to be the apocalypse.
Time line for Black Death (not needed for Exam) (just note the cities and how fast it spread)
Fall 1347 - The Black Death (Second Pandemic) begins; Constantinople,Alexandria, and Messina
on Sicily are struck by pestilence; it begins to move outward in Middle East,Africa, and Europe
• Winter 1347/48 - Italian ports of Genoa, Pisa, and Venice struck, along with Ragusa, Marseille, and
Riviera. Venice develops first board of sanitation
• Spring 1348 - Naples, Florence, Siena, and Perugia in Italy; Avignon in France; the Balearic Islands,
Barcelona, and Valencia inAragon; Damascus,Aleppo, Jerusalem, and Cairo struck. Plague
devastation in Florence become the backdrop for Boccacio’s The Decameron and claims
between 45,000 and 65,000 Florentines. First attacks on Jews in southern France and
• Summer 1348 - Rome; Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Normandy, and Brittany struck. Pestilence
appears in England and Germany. Flagellant movement begins.
• Fall 1348 - London and Ireland struck; Italian and southern French cities begin recovery. The high
toll in London requires the creation of new cemeteries. Flagellant movement gains
momentum. Medical faculty of the University of Paris issues its influential report on the
origins and character of plague.
• Winter 1349 - Pestilen