Puzzled by incomplete historical records of Modern England, interdisciplinary researchers are calling into question the historical accuracy of the Black Death. The Black Death was a prodigious epidemic, killing anywhere from thirty-three to sixty percent of Europe’s population (Theilmann 376). Popular belief is that the disease Y. pesits caused the Black Death. However, after examination of historical and modern plague accounts, some researchers feel otherwise. This paper explores the background of epidemics, the contrasting views of the Black Death, and the implications of the Black Death on modern science.
To understand the opposing viewpoints, a brief overview of epidemics, specifically Y. pestis, must be given. “An epidemic is generally an outbreak of disease widespread enough to affect a whole population – an area, a country or even a continent” (Lowth 42). Looking at the spread of disease and Y. pestis’s history will help in understanding each view.
Disease spreading between individuals is remarkable at the microscopic level, but disease spreading rapidly across a population is extraordinary. Unique interactions between an infectious agent, host, and environment create an epidemic (43). Epidemics, once formed, require optimal conditions for dispersion. “For a plague to spread it needs a disease agent that does not disable or kill its host too rapidly, populations who are susceptible, and a mode of transfer that works in the environment” (43).
The first condition considers the lethality of disease. Highly lethal diseases are not considered epidemics (42). Diseases with high mortality rates lack the ability to be transmitted between hosts. Epidemics tend to display a lower mortality rate making them highly contagious (43). The anomaly of the Black Death was its mortality rate compared to its contagiousness.
The second condition examines immunity (42). Certain populations can have an existing immunity to a particular disease. A high immunity percentage to a disease within a population will cause an epidemic to die out. Therefore, populations susceptible to specific diseases make them prone to epidemics. The population of England had a low immunity percentage to Y. pestis.
The third condition refers to the environments role (42). Epidemics occur during specific seasonal periods (Theilmann 376). What made the Black Death so unique was its ability to spread efficiently during warm and cold seasons (Welford et. al 4). The Black Death was unlike any disease, contradicting many ways in which disease was understood to spread.
The Black Death was not the first Y. pestis outbreak to sweep across an entire country. History has repeated itself on multiple occasions. The origin of Y. pestis is unknown, fostering manifold historical speculations. Historians theorize the first Bubonic Plague first originated in China over two thousand years ago (Nordqvist 1). As time progressed, European explorers became infatuated with eastern culture. Their...