Pandemics are popular. Most films and television programs that center on the nouveau “zombie” popularity involve some form of pandemic. Perhaps the most noted pandemic to ever strike the globe was that of the Black Death.
The Black Death has seen a surge in popularity in the past decade, as well. From The Black Death to Season of the Witch, the modern generation is only discovering the horror and agony the peoples of Europe and Asia suffered during that time.
The Black Death was a bubonic plague “superbug,” as we know them today. How do we know it was a superbug? It’s quite simple. The modern world has access to rapid travel, via airplane, train, and automobile. Bubonic plague epidemics today typically spread at a rate of around 15 miles per day, with the aforementioned transportation methods. During the Black Death, people had access only to horses, foot travel, and boats that depended on wind and water current speed. Yet, with these primitive modes of transit, somehow, the pandemic managed to spread at a rate of around 250 miles per day.
The disease was believed to have killed well over 30 million in Asia alone, before ever reaching Europe. Modern estimates state that the Black Death killed between 1/3 and ½ of Europe’s population in three years.
One of the most bizarre elements of the pandemic was its seemingly arbitrary and willful nature. It seemed to contaminate at will. It would just as easily infect an animal as it would a human. It could wipe out entire families, but leave one or two alive. Just as mystifying, after it circled and started into Russia, the disease just stopped.
The bubonic plague continued to appear randomly throughout European history, but never again did it manifest the insatiable nature, or the capacity to spread across continents.