Estimates of the Black Death's death toll in European cities from 1347-1351

The Black Death was the largest and deadliest pandemic of Yersinia pestis recorded in human history, and likely the most infamous individual pandemic ever documented. The plague originated in the Eurasian Steppes, before moving with Mongol hordes to the Black Sea, where it was then brought by Italian merchants to the Mediterranean. From here, the Black Death then spread to almost all corners of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. While it was never endemic to these regions, it was constantly re-introduced via trade routes from Asia (such as the Silk Road), and plague was present in Western Europe until the seventeenth century, and the other regions until the nineteenth century.

Impact on Europe

In Europe, the major port cities and metropolitan areas were hit the hardest. The plague spread through south-western Europe, following the arrival of Italian galleys in Sicily, Genoa, Venice and Marseilles, at the beginning of 1347. It is claimed that the Venice, Florence and Siena lost up to two thirds of their total population during epidemic's peak, while London, which was hit in 1348, is said to have lost at least half of its population. The plague then made its way around the west of Europe, and arrived in Germany and Scandinavia in 1348, before travelling along the Baltic coast to Russia by 1351 (although data relating to the death tolls east of Germany is scarce). Some areas of Europe remained untouched by the plague for decades; for example, plague did not arrive in Iceland until 1402, however it swept across the island with devastating effect, causing the population to drop from 120,000 to 40,000 within two years.

Reliability

While the Black Death affected three continents, there is little recorded evidence of its impact outside of Southern or Western Europe. In Europe, however, many sources conflict and contrast with one another, often giving a death tolls exceeding the estimated population at the time (such as London, where the death toll is said to be three times larger than the total population). Therefore, the precise death tolls remain uncertain, and any figures given should be treated tentatively.

Estimates of the Black Death's death toll in selected European cities from 1347 to 1351*

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Source

Release date

April 2020

Region

Worldwide, Turkey

Survey time period

1347 to 1351

Supplementary notes

This data was mostly compiled from; The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, by J.F.C. Hecker (1859), and was cross referenced with a variety of sources. Conflicting records are listed below.**

Other sources have stated that Dublin and Genoa lost approximately 35% of their populations, while Bremen lost approximately 40% of its population.

*The source does not specify dates, just that the deaths are attributed to the bubonic plague during the first wave (possibly in the first three years) of the Black Death epidemic.

**Additional or conflicting notes are as follows;
Venice: Total population estimated at 150,000 at the time of the outbreak
Florence: another source reports 50,000 deaths from a population of 85,000
Avignon: another source disputes this number, claiming that the total population did not exceed 50,000.
Erfurt: the source claims that this was the minimum death toll.
Marseilles: the source claims this was from the first month of the epidemic only.

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