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Black death migration

The meaning of «black death migration»

The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia, and peaking in Eurasia from 1321 to 1353. Its migration followed the sea and land trading routes of the medieval world. This migration has been studied for centuries as an example of how the spread of contagious diseases is impacted by human society and economics.

Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, and is enzootic (commonly present) in populations of ground rodents in Central Asia. The plague bacillus evolved more than 2,000 years ago near China, specifically in the Tian Shan mountains on the border between modern-day China and Kyrgyzstan.[1][2][3] The immediate origins of the Black Death are more uncertain. The pandemic has often been assumed to have started in China, but other theories place the first cases in the steppes of Central Asia.[4] Historians Michael W. Dols and Ole Benedictow argue that the historical evidence concerning epidemics in the Mediterranean and specifically the Plague of Justinian point to a probability that the Black Death originated in Central Asia, where it then became entrenched among the rodent population.[5][6]

Nevertheless, from Central Asia it was carried east and west along the Silk Road, by Mongol armies and traders making use of the opportunities of free passage within the Mongol Empire offered by the Pax Mongolica. It was reportedly first introduced to Europe when Mongols lobbed plague-infected corpses during the siege of the city of Caffa in the Crimea in 1347.[7] The Genoese traders fled, bringing the plague by ship into Sicily and Southern Europe, whence it spread.[8]

Regardless of its origin, it is clear that several preexisting conditions such as war, famine, and weather contributed to the severity of the Black Death. In China, the 13th-century Mongol conquest disrupted farming and trading, and led to widespread famine. The population dropped from approximately 120 to 60 million.[9] In Northern Europe, new technological innovations such as the heavy plough and the three-field system were not as effective in clearing new fields for harvest as they were in the Mediterranean because the north had poor, clay-like soil.[10] Food shortages and skyrocketing prices were a fact of life for as much as a century before the plague. Wheat, oats, hay, and consequently livestock, were all in short supply, and their scarcity resulted in hunger and malnutrition. The result was a mounting human vulnerability to disease due to weakened immune systems.

The Medieval Warm Period ended in Europe sometime in the 13th century, bringing harsher winters and reduced harvests. Heavy rains in late 1314 began several years of cold and wet winters. The already weak harvests of the north suffered. In the years 1315 to 1317, a catastrophic famine, known as the Great Famine, struck much of Northwest Europe. The famine came about as the result of a large population growth in the previous centuries, with the result that, in the early 14th century the population exceeded the number that could be sustained by farming.[10] The Great Famine was the worst in European history, reducing the population by at least ten percent.[11] Records recreated from dendrochronological studies show a hiatus in building construction during the period, as well as a deterioration in climate.[12] This was the economic and social situation in which the predictor of the coming disaster, a typhoid epidemic, emerged. Many thousands died in populated urban centres, most significantly Ypres. In 1318 a pestilence of unknown origin, sometimes identified as anthrax, affected the animals of Europe, notably sheep and cattle, further reducing the food supply and income of the peasantry.

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