The Black Plague, also referred to as the “Great Mortality,” was a devastating pandemic that swept through Europe in the Middle Ages and killed a third of the population. 

It lasted from the mid-14th century to the mid-17th century, with the most severe outbreak occurring between 1347 and 1352. The Black Plague is infamous for its widespread devastation and notable in history for its extreme mortality rate.

History of the Black Plague 

The Black Plague was caused by Yersinia pestis, an infectious bacteria that was spread primarily through rat fleas. The most widely accepted theory is that the plague began in Asia and worked its way westward by trade routes. In October of 1347, the plague arrived in Sicily by ship. From that port, it spread to other European cities, quickly becoming a major epidemic.

Symptoms of the Black Plague
If infected, one might suffer from a fever, headache, and aching joints. Other symptoms of the Black Plague include:

• Chills
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Swollen and tender lymph nodes
• Extreme fatigue
• Joint pain
• Extreme coughing
• Red spots on the skin (the so-called “black death”)

The Black Plague also caused buboes to form in the armpit and groin areas. These buboes are painful swellings filled with pus that eventually rupture and ooze a black, stinking fluid.

The Severity of the Black Plague

The Black Plague led to the death of between 30% and 50% of Europe’s population within a timeline of 5 years. The second pandemic led to the death of 25 million people (1/3 of Europe’s population) from 1348 to 1350. This mortality rate was much higher than earlier plagues, leading some to believe that it was a new disease.

Consequences of the Black Plague

The Black Plague had far-reaching consequences, including a significant economic impact. Areas with higher mortality rates did not have enough people to maintain a working economy. This caused a disruption in the production and distribution of food, as well as a shortage of labor, resulting in a drop in income.

Additionally, many areas experienced high inflation which discouraged foreign trade and investments because goods were so expensive. The plague also caused a massive increase in migration, with people fleeing from the affected areas.

The Length of the Black Plague

The Black Plague started in the mid-14th century and lasted for about 300 years. During this time, there were several recurrences of the plague, with the most severe outbreak occurring between 1347 and 1352. Although the exact death toll is not known, it is estimated that between 75 to 200 million people were killed by the plague throughout its lifetime.

Treatment of the Black Plague 

At the time, there was very limited knowledge of how to treat the plague. Given the lack of medical knowledge, many of the treatments used were nothing more than superstitions.

• Prayers, incantations, and rituals
• Healers would cleanse the air with herbs and incense
• Bleach or vinegar was spread throughout the streets
• Boiling vinegar and roses were sprayed on people or in the air
• Trepanned skulls were covered in a plaster of clay, herbs, mercury, and egg whites
• Bodies of the deceased were burned

How the Black Plague Ended 

The pandemic eventually died out after a series of quarantines and containment measures were implemented. People were advised to avoid crowded places, and goods were inspected before being allowed to pass across borders. Additionally, contact between the affected and non-affected areas was discouraged.

The Black Plague lasted from the mid-14th century to the mid-17th century, with the most severe outbreak occurring between 1347 and 1352. It led to the death of an estimated 75 to 200 million people throughout Europe. It had far-reaching consequences, including an economic impact due to the shortage of labor, disruption in the production and distribution of food, and increased inflation. Although there were treatments for the plague available at the time, most of them were nothing more than superstitions. Finally, the pandemic ended after containment measures were implemented.