Introduction: The Black Death in History

  • John Aberth
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


It so happened that in the month of October in the year of our Lord 1347, around the first of that month, twelve Genoese galleys, fleeing our Lord’s wrath which came down upon them for their misdeeds, put in at the port of the city of Messina. They brought with them a plague that they carried down to the very marrow of their bones, so that if anyone so much as spoke to them, he was infected with a mortal sickness which brought on an immediate death that he could in no way avoid.1


Early Modern Period Eyewitness Testimony Eurasian Steppe Revisionist Historian Medieval History 


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  1. 1.
    Michele da Piazza, Cronaca, ed. Antonino Giuffrida (Palermo: ILA Palma, 1980), 82.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This evidence is more fully described in John Aberth, From the Brink of the Apocalypse: Confronting Famine, War, Plague, and Death in the Later Middle Ages (New York: Routledge, 2000), 122–31.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Thomas Robert Malthus, First Essay on Population, 1798 (London: Macmillan and Co., 1926), 12.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See David Herlihy, The Black Death and the Transformation of the West, ed. Samuel K. Cohn Jr. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 39–81; Samuel K. Cohn Jr., The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe (London and New York: Arnold and Oxford University Press, 2002), 223–52.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    John Clynn, Annalium Hiberniae Chronicon (The Annals of Ireland), ed. Richard Butler (Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society, 1849), 37.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Timothy Kircher, “Anxiety and Freedom in Boccaccio’s History of the Plague of 1348,” Letteratura Italiana antica, 3 (2002): 319–57.Google Scholar

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© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2005

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  • John Aberth

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