The Black Death is known to be one of the most devastating pandemics in world or human history. The Black Death had been found to be the outbreak of a plague caused by bacteria. The initial pandemic came through in the mid-14 th century. History has it that the plague came back many times up to the 19 th century. The plague affected most parts of Europe and Asia and brought about a terrible drop in the population – estimated to have diminished 30% to 60% of Europe's population. It is believed that the plague started in China and spread through ships and the Silk Road to other parts. 1
The plague had been given different names over the years since the 1400 A.D. Some people called it the ‘Great Plague’ in the earlier times. It was the Swedish and Danish writers in the 16 th century who first described the plague as the ‘Black Death.' It got this name owing to its late-stage symptoms in which the victim's skin turned black in color as a result of sub-epidermal hemorrhage. 2
Delegate your assignment to our experts and they will do the rest.
Research and studies have revealed that the causative agent ‘ Yersinia pestis’ (the bacterium) in commonly present in flea populations. These fleas act as carriers or intermediates of the bacteria. The fleas are often carried around by ground rodents in most parts of Asia, India, and also some countries including Uganda. Recent medical research by medical geneticists confirmed that the horrifying plague originated from China. It killed about 25 million of the Chinese population and other Asians. Before this time, China had been conquered by the Mongols. It is also believed that spread of the plague was facilitated by the Mongol armies and traders along the Silk Road. It is said that infected corpses were also used to infect other people during Mongolian wars, where they (the Mongols) dropped the corpses in through the city walls. Inhabitants ran to other places such as Sicily where they only aided the spread of the deadly disease condition.
It is recorded that the plague reached Europe around the year 1347 and Sicily became one of the first affected parts in Europe. From Italy, the disease spread fast to other parts of Europe - Westwards. It got to England in the year 1348. The spread then took an eastern turn through Germany and the Great Scandinavia before 1350 A.D. The outbreaks and spread of the plague in Europe were facilitated by the rapid interaction of the inhabitants through trading and ship transport. By 1350, the disease had covered a vast region of Europe, all the way to Russia, coming down to North Africa and heading Eastwards to the middle-east (Gaza and other cities). The plague caused permanent changes in economic and social structures in these regions and also brought about a rapid decrease in population.
Many attempts to explain the cause of the plague, especially when it first came in the 14 th century, had been made. For instance, a report in Paris in 1345 blamed the heavens for the ‘great pestilence in the air.' Hygiene around this period was extremely, poorly practiced and people living around animals of all sorts, also presented easy ways of transmission of various diseases.
As drafted above, studies have confirmed that a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, was the cause of the plague. 3 The mechanism by the bacteria was transmitted and how it caused the disease condition was established and formulated in 1898 by a scientist, Paul-Louis Simond. Transmission involved flea bites which inoculated replicated forms of the bacteria into a new human host. The fleas originally obtain the bacteria from infected human hosts. Other secondary hosts of the bacteria included the rodents. If the rodent population was used up, the plague could change its course to infect new hosts (humans).
The Yersinia pestis manifested itself through many dreadful signs and symptoms. One of the most commonly noted and dreaded symptom was the appearance of the ‘buboes.' These could arise in the groin, armpits, on the thighs or around the neck. The buboes oozed out and produced pus and blood when they were opened . It could first manifest itself by the development of tumors in the groin or in the armpits which grew very large, especially in men. These spread throughout the body (on the skin surface). Soon, black spots could be seen on the skin surface, all over the victim. Other signs included acute fever and vomiting of blood. There were other distinctive signs which were only noted on specific individuals.
Some researcher came out with a report that the disease condition presented in three different forms. In the first account, boils or buboes erupted under the armpits and oozed out pus and also bled. A manifestation of another kind suggests that the disease could cause attacks to both sexes in the groin. In the third form, individuals suffered lung infections which also led to breathing difficulties and other respiratory problems.
Much of intelligent medical research has been carried out to conclude about the cause of the Black Death. Recently, DNA evidence proved that the causative agent of the plague was the bacterium, Yersinia pestis . DNA proteins specific for Yersinia pestis were tested in the human skeletons from various archaeological sites (plague areas). More studies also revealed different strains of the bacteria which caused the Black Death. 4
Ziegler, Philip. The black death . Faber & Faber, 2013.
Dols, Michael Walters. The Black Death in the Middle East . Princeton University Press, Guildford, Surrey., 1977.
Raoult, Didier, Gérard Aboudharam, Eric Crubézy, Georges Larrouy, Bertrand Ludes, and Michel Drancourt. "Molecular identification by “suicide PCR” of Yersinia pestis as the agent of medieval black death." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97, no. 23 (2000): 12800-12803.
Bos, Kirsten I., Verena J. Schuenemann, G. Brian Golding, Hernán A. Burbano, Nicholas Waglechner, Brian K. Coombes, Joseph B. McPhee et al. "A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death." Nature 478, no. 7370 (2011): 506-510.
1 Dols, Michael Walters. The Black Death in the Middle East . Princeton University Press, Guildford, Surrey., 1977.
2 Ziegler, Philip. The black death . Faber & Faber, 2013
3 Bos, Kirsten I., Verena J. Schuenemann, G. Brian Golding, Hernán A. Burbano, Nicholas Waglechner, Brian K. Coombes, Joseph B. McPhee et al. "A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death." Nature 478, no. 7370 (2011): 506-510.
4 Raoult, Didier, Gérard Aboudharam, Eric Crubézy, Georges Larrouy, Bertrand Ludes, and Michel Drancourt. "Molecular identification by “suicide PCR” of Yersinia pestis as the agent of medieval black death." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97, no. 23 (2000): 12800-12803.