The Black Death and Its Aftermath

When it was over, the populations of Europe, China, and India were cut by a third to a half.

The Black Death was the second pandemic of bubonic plague and the most devastating pandemic in world history. It was a descendant of the ancient plague that had afflicted Rome, from 541 to 549 CE, during the time of emperor Justinian. The bubonic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, persisted for centuries in wild rodent colonies in Central Asia and, somewhere in the early 1300s, mutated into a form much more virulent to humans.

Written by John Brooke. Narration by Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle. 

Video production by Laura Seeger and Dr. Nicholas B. Breyfogle. Production assistance by Kristin Osborne. Audio production by Paul Kotheimer, College of Arts & Sciences Academic Technology Services. The Origins' editorial team includes Editors Nicholas Breyfogle, Steven Conn and David Steigerwald; Managing Editors Lauren Henry and Sarah Paxton; Associate Editors: Mina Park and Kristin Osborne.

We thank the Stanton Foundation for their funding of this and other Origins projects.

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This content is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this content do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.