Arrival of the Black Death

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The Black Death

Arrival of the Black Death

  • As trade improved merchant ships were constantly on the move, and so were the rats that lived on the ships.

    • Rat-transmitted diseases began to spread rapidly again throughout Europe.

  • Legends link the origins of the Bubonic Plague, commonly known as the Black Death, to:

    • To trade caravans that spread an outbreak of the disease from China to the Crimea in southern Russia.

    • To Mongol leader Khan Djani-Beg and the Tartar army, attempted to defeat their enemies in the Crimea by catapulting the decapitated heads of sick soldiers over the city walls.

** Either way, the Bubonic plague spread into Europe through the Crimea.

Spread of the Black Death & Medical Care

  • The plague was caused by a bacterial infection that lived in the stomach of fleas.

    • Fleas often lived in the hair of rodents, like rats. Rats often traveled on ships where they had access to plentiful food and warm shelter in the cargo hull.

    • During voyages rats & fleas multiplied, and when the ships docked the rats and fleas fled to the streets of Europe.

  • Living conditions were unsanitary during the Middle Ages, and personal hygiene was low.

    • Serf, nobles, and the pope all had fleas and body lice.

    • If bitten by a plague carrying flea an entire village could be doomed.


  • First stage: The appearance of a large boil in the armpit or neck which was filled with puss and caused agonizing pain. If the boil was drained, and the person might recover.

  • Second stage: The appearance of black spots caused by bleeding under the skin.

  • Third stage: The victim would begin to cough up blood.

  • Fourth stage: A victim would die 2-3 days after the appearance of the bloody cough.

Social & Economic Effects of the Black Death

  • Many priests and laymen of the Church died from caring for the sick and burying the plague victims.

    • As a result the Church’s power begins to weaken and strict Church law will be reformed.

  • The Bubonic plague killed 1/3 of Europe’s population Many areas of Europe had been over populated before the plague.

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