Much new can be said on the Black Death’s patterns of territorial spread. Of particular importance was the sudden appearance of the plague over vast distances, due to its rapid transportation by ship. Ships travelled at an average speed of around 40km a day which today seems quite slow. However, this speed meant that the Black Death easily moved 600km in a fortnight by ship: spreading, in contemporary terms, with astonishing speed and unpredictability. By land, the average spread was much slower: up to 2km per day along the busiest highways or roads and about per day along secondary lines of communication.
The Black Death. Illumination from the 1411. Source: SMB MS 78 E1 Weltchronik (Toggenburg Bible). In Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
The disastrous mortal disease known as the Black Death spread across Europe in the years 1346-53. The frightening name, however, only came several ...
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The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. The Italian writer Boccaccio said its victims often "ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise." By the following August, the plague had spread as far north as England, where people called it "The Black Death" because of the black spots it produced on the skin. A terrible killer was loose across Europe, and Medieval medicine had nothing to combat it. In winter the disease seemed to disappear, but only because fleas--which were now helping to carry it from person to person--are dormant then. Each spring, the plague attacked again, killing new victims. After five years 25 million people were dead-- one-third of Europe's people. Even when the worst was over, smaller outbreaks continued, not just for years, but for centuries. The survivors lived in constant fear of the plague's return, and the disease did not disappear until the 1600s. Medieval society never recovered from the results of the plague. So many people had died that there were serious labor shortages all over Europe. This led workers to demand higher wages, but landlords refused those demands. By the end of the 1300s peasant revolts broke out in England, France, Belgium and Italy. The disease took its toll on the church as well. People throughout Christendom had prayed devoutly for deliverance from the plague. Why hadn't those prayers been answered? A new period of political turmoil and philosophical questioning lay ahead. Black Death - Disaster Strikes 25 million people died in just under five years between 1347 and 1352. Estimated population of Europe from 1000 to 1352.
A mass grave has been uncovered at Spitalfields containing the remains of victims of the Black Death