Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is Black Death?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Black Death

Mains level: NA

In a study published in the Science journal, researchers have claimed that the bubonic plague was originated in modern day northern Kyrgyzstan around 1338-1339 – nearly 7-8 years before it ravaged large parts of the world.

What is Black Death?

  • The term Black Death refers to the bubonic plague that spread across Western Asia, Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe in 1346-53.
  • Most scholars agree that the Black Death, which killed millions, was caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis and was spread by fleas that were carried by rodent hosts.
  • The microorganism Y. pestis spread to human populations, who at some point transmitted it to others either through the vector of a human flea or directly through the respiratory system.

Why this plague was called the Black Death?

  • It is commonly believed that the term Black Death gets its name from the black marks that appeared on some of the plague victims’ bodies.
  • In the 14th century, the epidemic was referred to as the ‘great pestilence’ or ‘great death’, due to the demographic havoc that it caused.
  • The world black also carried a dark, gloomy emotional tone, due to the sheer amount of deaths generated by the plague.

Why is the new discovery significant?

  • The geographical origin point of the plague has been debated for centuries.
  • Some historians have argued that the plague originated in China, and spread across Europe by Italian merchants who first entered the continent in trading caravans through Crimea.
  • Another story argues that Mongol army hurled plague-infested bodies into the city during the siege of Caffa (Crimea) and led to the spread of the disease.


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