The Black Death (1347-1351)

Boccaccio’s ‘The plague of Florence in 1348’

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[CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Theme: Disasters, Climate, Population
Keywords: Plague, Pandemics, Climate change

The Black Death, also known as the plague, spread across Europe and Asia in the 14th century. Today it is known that the bacteria Yersina Pestis were the cause of the plague, but in the 14th century no one knew what it was or how to deal with the disease. The Black Death entered Europe by human trade and merchant ships from the Asian continent through Caffa Bay in the Black Sea (Callaway, 2011:445), which contained black rats and flees from which the disease spread to humans. The pandemic was enforced by poor sanitary conditions of cities and further on governments and food production failed, which led to weaker immune systems from starvation, less governmental management of disease and migration. Between 1347 to 1351 Rutherford and Weitzman (2001:12) states, the Black Death killed between 17-28 million Europeans.

At present time, the risk of global pandemics could be increased by climate change. Frumkin, (2008:435-436) states that it is well known that extreme climate increases the risk of the spreading of food-, water and airborne infectious diseases. With the more global travel patterns and the faster travel methods of today, the diseases could spread rapidly across the globe.




Further readings:

Callaway, Ewen. 2011. “Plague genome: The Black Death decoded”. Nature, Vol 478; 444-446.

Rutherford, Adam and Weitzman, Jonathan. 2001. “Black Death”. TRENDS in Molecular Medicine, Vol.7; 12.

Frumkin Howard, Hess Jeremy, Luber George, Malilay Josephine and McGeehin Michael. 2008. “Climate change: The Public Health Response”. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 98; 435-445.

Emma Fogelström

B.Sc with a Major in Environmental Science. I am very interested in the interrelation of the natural and the cultural spheres, and how human behavior affect the environment. Especially I am interested in Climate change and how it affects our planet in many ways. Another topic of hearth is urban agriculture as a way to make cities more selfsufficient and less dependent on systems outside of the city and transportation. The Anthropocene, I believe to be a very interesting debate, and I am excited to see what final result will come from it. How are humanity going to act in "the age of man"?

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