Okay. I felt like I need to respond to this post and the above ask that was in response to that post. Because it seems people are still not clear about what the Black Death was, the history of it, what caused it, how it is spread and who was affected by it, who wasn’t, and why.
This is going to be a doozy so I put it under a read more.
First off, the black death was not just bubonic plague. It was pneumonic plague and septicemic plague too. All of these are forms of the Y. pestis bacteria. If you ever catch the plague, which is something that can still happen, you better hope it is bubonic. At least then you would have a fighting chance. With septicemic, you could die before symptoms even occur.
Bubonic plague is not usually spread from person to person. Small rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels, carry the infection. Fleas that live on these animals act as “vectors” and carry the infection from the rodent to humans. People may get exposed to the bacteria from flea bites or from direct contact with an infected animal.
Pneumonic plague is the one spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing.
So bubonic is an infection of the lymph nodes. It takes 2- 5 days for symptoms to occur and it has a 50% chance of death without treatment. It is caused by coming in contact with rodents that carry the infection or by fleas with the infection. Not feces.
Pneumonic is an infection of the lungs. It takes 2-3 days for symptoms to occur. This is spread by person to person. Death is certain without treatment. With treatment, you have a 90% to 95% chance of dying.
Septicemic plague is an infection of the blood. Is spread by coming in contact with infected rodents or being bitten by an infected flea. Death can occur on the day of the infection and before any symptoms show.
So, those are the three plagues that made up the Black Death! [Source]
Now, let’s talk about the history of the plague, where it came, from and how it was spread.
When the Black Death occurred, this was not the first time the plague has come to Europe. The first time was 807 years before in 541. It was called “The Plague of Justinian” and it struck the Eastern Roman Empire, killing an estimated 25 million people in the known world (Europe, Middle East, Asia) before vanishing in 750. It is thought this was the bubonic plague but no one knows for sure. Historians are still debating about that.
After vanishing for nearly 600 years the plague came back. The black plague or the black death came from China and traveled to west via the Silk Road and by trade ships from Asia.
Merchants from Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe were unknowingly carrying rats from Asia that carried fleas with the plague. When they got to the cities in Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, and Europe, the rats multiplied and so did the fleas. When the rats died they went to the next living thing around it, it either was a dog, a cat, a horse, or a human.
All of these places were utterly ravished by this plague. The plague had run through China killing off 2/3rds of the population there. That’s 25 million. In one province the plague killed off 90% of the population. That’s five million people alone. The Mongols themselves were hurt by it since some of their generals were sick too.( But they also used the plague as a war tactic which will I will explain later.) It killed off about a third of the people in Central Asia and the Middle East. As one witness said about the plague that in 1346, ”India was depopulated, Tartary, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia were covered with dead bodies”. So you say it wasn’t as bad in other places? That Europe was the only place that got the worst of it? Think again.
These high death rates were caused by close living conditions, poor medicine, and poor hygiene that all of these places had at the time. People didn’t know what to do medically wise. This was the middle ages after all. They thought it was caused by “bad air.”
Also remember many places in these areas still practiced the feudal system and if there was an outbreak of plague, you couldn’t just get up and move away. You were forced to stay. Even if you were well. This another reason is why so many people needlessly died from it.
You know what spared Africa from it the worst of it? Oh yes, Africa was also affected by the Black Death too, there is no denying that. But, the reason why they were spared fact that there were little trade routes and that the civilizations in the Sahara and in below it there were far from each other. How can the Black Death get to your little village or town if you lived far away from the larger cities? That is why North Africa was hit hard by it but not the other parts of Africa. If people had the plague and tried to cross the Sahara to one the cities there, they would have died from the plague before reaching them and thus keeping those cities and villages safe. If the plague ever did hit your village in Africa, you were so isolated that the plague would have made its run through the village and only that village.
All of the baths in the world would have not have saved you from the Black Death. Being clean wasn’t just going to save you. On that note, people in the Middle Ages did take baths. There were public bath houses or you just bathed in your own home. The whole thing about not taking baths or just washing places that people would see, like your face, arms, legs, neck, back and chest was something that sprung up around 1500 and didn’t end until the late 18th century. It was a fashion fad/high society fad since linen was coming into use now for clothing and the whole notion that your clothes had to be clean and had to be of high quality and not your body. Also the church had something against being nude, even if it was for bathing. And even then, it was something not everyone did. People still took baths. You are mixing up medieval times with the beginning of the modern era/The Renaissance era. The Middle Ages wasn’t “The Dung Ages” like everyone thinks it was.
It wasn’t just “nasty habits” that caused the spread but a large number of factors did too. And it wasn’t just the Europeans that spread it. The other cultures and civilizations did too.
If you came in contact with the flea or someone who was infected with the plague, you had a high chance of getting infected too. This mostly happened when people went to their local churches, mosques, etc to pray to God to stop the plague. Many people thought that the plague was a curse from God and if they got blessed or prayed more it would go away. It didn’t. And the people there who were well and were around all those sick people, got sick too. Then they would go back to their religious place to pray or get blessed, unknowingly infecting more uninfected people who came there to pray for the plague to go away.
Remember that all of these places in the Middle Ages did not know about proper quarantine procedures which could have kept the number of deaths to a minimum. But, people back then fled to other cities when their city became infected not knowing that they were infected too or not knowing their livestock were carrying the flea that carried the plague. Also, if they had closed off the trade routes, that would have curbed the plague a little too.
You also need to know that even if they took a shit ton of baths, if they could not get rid of the rats, the fleas, or the animals that carried the fleas (like horses, cows, dogs, cats, other livestock), they were going to catch it. The sanitation in all of these areas (not just Europe. Asia too) were, for the most part, very shitty.
Also need to remember that this was a time of warfare with the Mongols and they would purposely infect people or even whole cities with the plague which led to the spread of it all across Europe and Central Asia. They contributed to the spread of the plague this way even though they were suffering from it as well. When people would flee the cities the Mongols infected they unknowingly carried the plague with them and when they reached an uninfected and “safe” city, they would die and spread the plague in that city, causing the whole cycle to happen again.
Finally, what also caused for such a widespread outbreak was the fact that during this time, people were already sick and starving in these areas because of the “Little Ice Age” that was going on at the time. It got cooler all over the world. It caused for crops not grow, longer and colder winters, and widespread famine. A disease struck livestock in Europe and Central Asia, killing off most of them and causing the famine to get worse and food prices to go up. People were not strong and not completely healthy. Famines were already killing off the population of China before the plague even started there. The Mongol attacks and other warfare like the Hundred Years War was not helping the situation either. People all over Europe and Asia were not healthy because of these conditions. People would have been more resistant to the plague if the Medieval Warming period hadn’t ended so suddenly and if the constant warfare left people weak.
So in all, baths + proper sanitation + not being in a famine/proper nutrition + quarantine methods + not coming in contact with sick people + finding ways to get rid of pests/protecting livestock from pests + your enemies not being assholes and not purposely infecting your people as a warfare tactic = you have a fighting chance against the plague! (if it is bubonic)
Just baths? Lol no.
If you lived in isolated areas or island nations with little to no trade routes like Iceland (The Black Death did finally reach it 50 years after the original outbreak), in the Sahara or in Sub-Saharan Africa? Why, the plague would have probably never even freaking reach you or would take a long freaking time to do it, like with Iceland, so you don’t need to worry about it.
And fyi, the United States has had plague outbreaks before in the 20th century, even with people taking baths, sanitation, and proper hygiene. It was those damned fleas and rats.
And that is a small lesson about the Black Death and the plague. I hope this clears things up.