1. The Black Death was a horrible and devastating pandemic that reached its peak in Europe between 1348 and 1350.
2. Recordkeeping in the 14th century wasn’t as thorough as it is today (and, of course, many records didn’t survive), so the exact extent of the Black Death’s damage isn’t known, but it’s estimated that it killed 30% – 60% of the people living in Europe, reducing the world population from 450,000,000 to between 350,000,000 and 375,000,000.
3. The disease behind the Black Death was basically the Bubonic Plague. (Okay, so I’m no bacteriologist, so I don’t want to flat out say it was 100% the Bubonic Plague; but close enough, you know?)
4. It’s thought that the pandemic started in Asia and was brought to Europe through the trade route.
5. Although the greatest concentration of losses was in Europe, other areas, including Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa, also suffered heavy casualties.
6. The Black Death presented with swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and/or groin, which oozed and bled (and often appeared black); high fever, and blood-laced vomit. Most died within two days to one week after the appearance of symptoms.
7. Of course, there had to be scapegoats, and groups such as Jews, gypsies, friars and lepers were targeted and persecuted for having been considered responsible for the plague. Some 60 large Jewish communities and 150 smaller ones were totally destroyed as a result.
8. Boccaccio famously said that those who were struck by the Death “ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in Paradise.”
9. The huge loss of life negatively impacted the availability of labor, causing laborers to demand more money. These demands were rarely met, which eventually led to a long series of riots and fights.
10. After 1350, there were recurrences of plague for several centuries, some of which were quite serious but did not reach the heights of the 14th century plague.