Faculty Publications

Spatio-Temporal Characteristics of the Medieval Black Death

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Spatial Analysis in Health Geography

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Yersinia pestis, the Gram-negative bacterium responsible for the highly lethal flea-vectored disease known as bubonic plague, is generally considered to be responsible for the Medieval Black Death (MBD) of 1347–1351 (for example, Creighton, 1965; Shrewsbury, 2005; Biraben, 1975; Benedictow, 2004; Kelly, 2005). The MBD and subsequent outbreaks of disease referred to as ‘plagues’ in historical accounts, as well as in the later English ‘Bills of Mortality,’ ravaged medieval Europe during periodic epidemics until approximately 1801 (Gottfried, 1983). However, the primary wave (the first epidemic) of the MBD was by far the most devastating, destroying the burgeoning economy of the late Middle Ages and killing greater than 30% of the European population in a very short period. The true number of case fatalities and the actual mortality rate from this epidemic is still unknown and estimates are derived from the postulations of individual historians (Horrox, 1994; Benedictow, 2004; Kelly, 2005).


Department of Geography

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