Sample History Essay Paper on Black Death


Going through history there have been many diseases that have caused significant panic and death; nevertheless, none is compared to the bubonic plague. According to Horrox, the bubonic plague had killed an estimated a third of Europe’s population with its peak documented between 1347 until about 1400 (23). According to Knighton the pestilence carried ended the lived of millions of individuals of both sexes (12). Fathers and mother were forced to burry own children common pit in churches as there was so much death to conduct a ceremony. The smell of rotting bodies made it hard for individuals to even visit the cemeteries. Nevertheless, according to Cantor, the Black Death is not chronicled accurately on the basis of its origin as well as the period the plague ravaged humankind (8). As cited by Gaquet, when analyzing the chronicles of black death two things stand out other than the high number of deaths; firstly, the disease was shipped from one coast to another consequent of which its origins are not known (45). To this date, it is said that Black Death got to Europe through China from merchant ships; does the plague originated from the East? Some scholars do not conform to the premise. Secondly, if the origin of the pestilence is unknown then it can be argued that its effects remain anonymous as well. The presentation of these two factors highlights the significance of following up on the evidence of the black death through history in order to accurately give the chronicles of the plague. 


True origin of Black Death

One of the most asked questions about the Black Death is when was the disease first documented. The reason for this primarily stems from finding the origins of the disease as well as the true number of individuals who were affected by the disease. When going through the history of Black Death there is a sense that the disease originated from China in the early 1300s and reached the shores of Europe between 1346 and a year later. According to Dols, the disease first reached the UK through the Ports of Bristol in 1346 and eventually the disease hit the British capital on in September 1348 (78). Later in the 1349 spring, it hit Wales and the Midlands and by the late summer, the disease had crossed the Irish Sea and speared north into Scotland (80). On the other hand, it is indicated that the pandemic reached the shores of Italy in 1346. Through record from medieval historians, it was estimated that the diseases took the lives of at least 35 million individuals between 1347 and 1400. According to Dols the pestilence ended the lived many people, to the point that the no one left behind to bury the dead bodies in formal graves (192). Mass graves or pits offered the best possible alternatives. However, following such a description was similar to the Plague of Justinian.

Justinian plagues

In 541 A.D, the Justinian credited with being the most influential Byzantine emperor was the first civilization to fully document outbreaks of a plague. At the time, there was very limited information to go by to identify the strain of disease as Black Death. Nevertheless, according to accounts documented by ancient historians victims of the disease suffers from symptoms similar to those of the bubonic plague; for instance sudden fever and swollen lymph nodes. According to Byrne, the number of deaths during the time were significantly high considering that unburied bodies were eventually stacked inside buildings or left in the open (112). The disease that claimed up to 10,000 individuals a day originated from Africa and later spread to Europe (113). Rats from Marchant ships were identified as the primary carriers of the infection. From this information, it can be argued that some of the data presented about Black Death may not be accurate. For instance, as provided by Gaquet the origin of the plague was China (34). However, the premise was considerably disputed by Dowell there no Chinese records that indicate the existence of show any unusual epidemic until 1331 (8). Additionally, when using the principle of proximate origin’ the existence of Black Death both in the Middle East and Europe indicate proximity to Northern Arica and the Crimea, not China (Horrox 354).

Medieval plague (Black Death)

It form the information that some historians indicate theta Bubonic Plague’s major occurrences into three historical periods. From the aforementioned, informational it can be argued that the first time the disease was recorded in history was in the seventh century AD In Arica. During the medieval period, in particular, during the fourteenth century, the disease was said to have reached its peak. According to Haines in the monastery of Rochester, supplies ran short and the monks could not get enough food (1135). They had to try to make their own bread, or else starve, although the leader of the abbey ate the best food still. The reason for this starvation was placed on the premise that So many farmers and workers died that more than a third of that year’s harvest was lost because there was no-one to reap the crops. Additionally, the remaining workers were lawless and at times stole the harvest for their own survival. It was during this time that the Bubonic Plague got the iconic name ‘Black Death’.

In 1347, an infectious strain of pestilence overran continental Europe from the East. It was perceived that the strain originated from the Crimea and was brought by infected Italian Sailors. The sailors were infected by flees that were in contact with rodents, the primary cause of the disease. The ‘Black Death’ ravaged the earth for almost half a century taking the lives of approximately 35 million in the process (Gaquet 90). According to Dols the number of deaths due to the disease was overwhelming surpassing its Justinian plagues documentation (124). Entire towns, as well as village populations, were wiped out with most of the dead laid to rest in mass graves. The plague reached the English ports of Southampton and Bristol where it annihilated half of the ports population within two years. This strain was viscous as it only took hardly two or three days or in some instances just half a day to kill its victims.

Through history, this period represented the worst time in humankind as most of the population in Europe were forced to burn their loved ones in order to contain the spreads of the disease. Nevertheless, it was explained that by the end of the fourteenth century the disease was containable and said to be over.

 Orientalis plague (The Italian Plague of 1629-31 and The Great Plague of London of 1665 -1666)

Despite the end of black death in during the fourteenth century, the bubonic outbreak continued to show unprecedented existence in Europe with records indicating the second surge if the disease in the sixteenth century. As indicated by Horrox one of the significant calamitous outbreaks of the disease was witnessed in 1629 after the military officers from the ‘thirty Year Years’ War were said to have brought a strain of the disease to the city of  Mantua in Italy (187). Their bodies were burnt alongside all the processions they had from the war in order to prevent the spread of the disease; nevertheless, over the two years after their arrival, the pestilence had made its way across the Italian countryside. The cities of Milan, Florence, Venice, and Verona were the first high population areas to be affected by the second strain of Black Death. The city authorities quarantined the ill and incinerated their bodies in a controlled environment just as it was done in Mantua to prevent further spreading of the infection. However, before the disease was contained it was documented that Milan and Verona had lost about 280,000 people (200). Additionally, during the same time, Venice had lost a third of their entire population a factor that led to the republic’s decline in development in the continental stage.       

The city of London suffered the consequences of the plague severally during both the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; with the most notable attack recorded between 1665 and 1666. During the sixteenth century a new strain of Black Death was found the suburb of St. Giles-in-the-Fields; nonetheless, the pestilence soon spread to the overcrowded ghettos of the city. As cited by Gaquet this strain of the plague saw the death of about 8000 individuals weekly a factor that led to an estimation of total deaths ranging from 75,000 and 100,000 before the outbreak was contained in 1666 (378).  

The three cases indicated highlight the highest deaths caused by Black Death plague in Europe and other regions such as Northern Africa and Asia. However, going through history it was documented that the last major outbreak of the plague was documented in 1720 at the French Port of Marseille. The strain of the disease reached the port through the Grand Saint Antoine, a merchant ship that had picked up infected passengers as it made its way from the Middle East (400). The passengers were quarantined and burnt along with their possessions; nevertheless, the cargo unloaded from the ship had flees that soon infected the general population killing hundreds of thousands in the process. Unlike the Italians and English, the French saw little need to burn the bodies of their loved ounce a factor that saw the disease spread to the south of France killing about 100,000 people before it was contained.


Black Death remains the most apocalyptic pandemic to affect the human race in humankind history. Though history over 40 million individuals had lost their lives by the time the pandemic was contained. Nevertheless, one of the factors that remained incomprehensible was the true extent of the disease a factor that has been well documented in the article with major cases of the strain documented indicating that Clack Death started from Northern Africa and part of the Middle East and not China as perceived.  

Works Cited

Primary sources

Haines, Roy Martin. “The Episcopate of a Benedictine Monk: Hamo de Hethe, Bishop of Rochester (1317-1352).” Revue bénédictine 102.1-2 (1992): 192-207.

Knighton, Henry. “Knighton’s Chronicle 1337-1396.” (1995).

Secondary sources

Byrne, Joseph Patrick. The Black Death. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004.. Pdf retrieved from

Cantor, Norman F. In the wake of the plague: the Black Death and the world it made. Simon and Schuster, 2001.

Dols, Michael Walters. The Black Death in the Middle East. Princeton University Press, Guildford, Surrey., 1977.

Gaquet, Francis. The Black Death. Merkaba Press (PublishDrive), 2017.

Horrox, Rosemay, ed. The black death. Vol. 1. Manchester University Press, 1994.

Lewis Dowell III. Origins: A Study of the Black Death inFourteenth Century Eurasia. PDF retrieved from