Black Death - the Bubonic Plague
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The Black Death

Black Death

During the Hundred Years' War, a lot of people in Europe were very poor and hungry because the soldiers fighting the war had wrecked their farms. Then people began to catch a terrible sickness that was spreading along Mongol trade routes from China through Central Asia to Europe beginning in 1328 AD.


This sickness was the bubonic plague. Bacteria caused the plague, getting inside people usually when infected fleas bit them.

When you caught the plague you got big black spots called buboes on your armpits and behind your knees and on your neck. A lot of people called it the Black Death, because after that the tips of your fingers and toes and your nose often turned black.

Black Death burials
Burying people who died of plague

Most of the people who got the plague died, especially poor people who didn't have good food to eat. About one out of every three people in Europe, and many people in Asia and Africa too, died during this plague.

Partly because of this plague, the Mongol Empire collapsed in Central Asia. It may also be true that because so many people had died in Europe, the survivors were richer and better fed, and that this led to the Renaissance.

Learn by doing: visit sick people in a hospital
More about the bubonic plague

Bibliography and further reading about the bubonic plague:

More about the plague
The Hundred Years War
The Mongols
Medieval Europe home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 26 April, 2017