Alternate History

The Great Black Death

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The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1347 and 1351. It is widely thought to have been caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis.

The origins of the plague are disputed among scholars. Some historians believe the pandemic began in China or Central Asia (one such location is Lake Issyk Kul) in the lungs of the bobac variety of marmot, spreading to fleas, to rats and eventually to humans. In the late 1320s or 1330s, and during the next years merchants and soldiers carried it over the caravan routes until in 1346 it reached the Crimea in South Eastern Europe. Other scholars believe the plague was endemic in that area. In either case, from Crimea the plague spread to Western Europe and North Africa during the 1340s. The total number of deaths worldwide is estimated at 75 million people, approximately 25–50 million of which occurred in Europe.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe's population. It might have reduced the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400

PoD: The Black Death is much more virulent than in reality, killing between 60% and 85% of Europe's population and killing over 300 million worldwide.

Black death map


In early 1346, traders in the city of Constantinople begin telling of a great plague that has infected people along the silk road to the east. Within six months people in the city begin to fall ill with fever and swelling in their armpits and groins, people who get ill are usually dead within five days.

In 1347 a Genoese trading vessel washes up on the southern coast of Sicily, all aboard are dead or on the verge of death, the local population salvage the cargo of silks and furs from India and then burn the vessel, little do they know that the fleas on the furs they carry back to their villages also carry the black death bacterium.

The disease outbreak in Sicily spreads rapidly and by August 1347 there are outbreaks of the black death in Alexandria, Rome, Pisa, Naples, Barcelona, Lyon, Marseille and Athens. The plague spreads rapidly in the warm weather around the Mediterranean, by September 1347 the death toll has already topped two million.

By January 1348 the plague has killed over ten million around the Mediterranean and is beginning to spread north.

In May 1348 plague spreads into England and Ireland, it spreads rapidly and has infected the entire island within 18 months. Within two years, two thirds of the population is dead.

August 1348, only one year since the main outbreak of black death, the death toll is now above 75 million worldwide.

November 1348 in the northern countries infected by the plague begin to see a reduction in infection rates.

March 1349, infection rates in the northern countries increase rapidly, deaths are more likely due to the cold winter and malnutrition. death tolls worldwide now stand at 150 million.

During the summer of 1349 deaths increase as malnutrition spreads across the world as few farmers still are working the land.

As the winter of 1349/50 encroaches, Pope Clement VI dies in Rome, along with King Edward III of England, Phillip VI of France and many other members of the European aristocracies.

Among the dead in the east are almost the entire royal house of Yuan in China, including Emperor Hui Zong. After the royal families deaths there is a rebellion in the south of the country and a new royal family (the royal family of Ming) are instated under the first Emperor Hong Wu (also known as Zhu Yuanzhang)

In January 1350 the new Pope Innocent VI announces that plague victims cannot be buried in hallowed ground, and more importantly no priests will give last rites (this is mainly due to the high mortality suffered by the church, as many as three-quarters of the priesthood have already died).

During the summer of 1350 deaths from the plague tops 250 million worldwide.

By the winter of 1350/51 plague infection rates have dropped to practically nil, total death toll exceed 275 million, roughly 80% of the population of Europe have died with some areas around the Mediterranean seeing death rates above 95%, many major cities around the coastline have been abandoned with the surviving populations moving to partially abandoned villages inland.

During 1351 there are several smaller outbreaks of plague in the large population centres worldwide, however deaths increase due to other outbreaks of diseases such as Cholera, Dysentery and Typhoid. By the end of 1351 total deaths from plague and resulting diseases are above 300 million worldwide.

Due to the massive deaths in the religious faithful many people turn away from the Catholic, Jewish and Islamic faiths. In many places people return to the old pagan ways, mainly due to the fact that many practitioners realised the link between the flea bites and the plague and used insect repellents to reduce the infections. Only the areas around the Holy land and Rome retain the Christian and Jewish faiths and the area around Mecca and Medina retain the Islamic faith.

By 1370 the pagan faiths had become the dominant practice in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Scandinavia.

In 1387 an army of 12,000 loyal Muslims (almost two thirds of the world population of Muslims) attack the Holy Land. They are driven off and the majority killed by a unified army of Jewish and Christian defenders. After this point the Muslim faith collapses into small splinter groups and begin infighting amongst themselves, the Muslim faith ceases to exist by the early 1400's.

In 1396 and army of the followers of Jupiter (pagans following the old Roman gods) retake the city of Rome from the Christian defenders, Pope Urban II is publicly executed on the Palatine Hill, his body was then burned in the Roman forum. All the churches in Rome are burned on the night of the 28th June 1397, St Peter's Basilica (built by Constantine I) burns for six days.

By 1450 only the area directly surrounding the Holy Land still follow Judaism and Christianity, the total global population of the two faiths is roughly 122,000.

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