Death toll of select plague epidemics in Europe and North Africa 1665-1838

Bubonic plague was a constant threat to Afro-Eurasian populations during the Second Plague pandemic. This pandemic arrived in Europe as the Black death in 1347, and although it never became endemic, it was constantly re-introduced to the continent over the next four centuries. By the late seventeenth century, most regions of Europe had recorded their final epidemics (but not necessarily the final cases), and it eventually subsided in the mid-nineteenth century. The death tolls due to plague were relatively low in most years, however, when epidemics appeared they could often decimate populations within a few short years, and lead to mass evacuations of major cities (such as in London in 1665).

Plague in Russia

Of the sample epidemics shown here, the two largest cases were in Russia; a region where plague outbreaks were much more frequent than in other parts of Europe. The reason for this was because plague would spread along the Volga river, after being brought to the Caspian Sea by fishermen from the Eurasian Steppes (where the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis is thought to originate). Between these two epidemics, it is estimated that Russia lost over half a million people. The epidemic of 1709, which spread across Northern Europe during the Great Northern War, saw a reported 150,000 deaths across the Russian Empire. The plague epidemic of 1771 in Russia saw the deaths of approximately 60,000 in the capital city, and as many as 300,000 in the surrounding region. In Moscow, the government's attempts to contain the outbreak resulted in a riot by the citizens, and the aftermath saw significant socio-political upheaval in the city and beyond.

Death toll across a variety of bubonic plague epidemics in Europe and North Africa from 1665 to 1838

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Release date

May 2020


Europe, MENA

Survey time period

1665 to 1838

Supplementary notes

The data was compiled and corrected using a variety of sources, most notably A Treatise on Plague, by W.J. Simpson (1905), and Encyclopædia Britannica.

*The official death toll is approximately 70,000, however experts predict that it was closer to 100,000.

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Statistics on "Plague"

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