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Map of Europe and the Black Death


All boundaries, and borders of countries, are approximate

The territory controlled by a king or people varied from time to time, and was often disputed by other peoples.
The dates and ranges of the Black Death are approximate. People were often reluctant to report cases of Plague in their families, or were unable to do so because they died within a few days of contracting the disease.
An approximation to the modern coast-line is generally used in the maps.

map of the Black Death

Timeline of Events
The timeline includes earlier outbreaks of epidemics which were probably due to Pasteurella pestis / Yersinia pestis (the bacillus which causes Plague). There is some ambiguity, because in earlier times the word "plague" was used for several contagious diseases, and medical knowledge was not advanced enough to be able to make a full diagnosis.

ca. 1100 BC The Philistines were hit by a plague which caused swellings (buboes) in the groin, and which seems to have been associated with rats or mice. (I Samuel 5:6-21) The Philistines lived in the coastal regions of Canaan, and were probably engaged in sea-trade, which is one of the ways in which Plague is spread. The King James' Version of the Bible describes the swellings as "hemorrhoids" - but people don't usually die from hemorrhoids
430 BC Plague in Athens killed about 300,000 people, including the Greek leader Pericles. Thucydides survived, and wrote a description of the symptoms
AD 541-544 The First recorded Pandemic (widespread epidemic) of Plague, also known as the Plague of Justinian, which apparently originated somewhere in Africa, spread to Egypt, and then followed the maritime trade routes to Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Rome, Marseilles, and parts of Spain, southern France and the north coast of Africa
AD 557-767 14 successive epidemics of Plague which followed much the same course as the First Pandemic. Bede recorded outbreaks of a plague in England in the years 664, 672, 679, 683
1338-1339 Inscriptions on tombstones in Nestorian cemetaries in central Asia indicate that people there had died of Plague (D. A. Chwolson, reported in Encyclopedia Britannica article "Plague")
From that region it spread to Mongolia, China, India, and eventually Europe
1347 The start of the Black Death - The Kipchak Mongol army under Khan Janibeg probably picked up an infection of Plague from China or central Asia. Janibeg was besieging the town of Kaffa in the Crimea when his army started dying around him, so he used the corpses of his men as missiles to catapult over the walls of Kaffa and infect the town. Kaffa was a trading post for Genoese merchants, and some of them took ship and fled. They were already infected, and the Plague went with them to Constantinople. In October, infected Genoese ships arrived at Messina in Sicily, continued to Naples and Genoa in Italy, and then to Marseilles in France. The Plague also jumped to Corsica and Sardinia.
1348 The Plague spread from Sicily to northern Africa and to the ports on the Adriatic (Venice and Ragusa). From Marseilles it followed the trade routes to Spain, and also penetrated southern France. In August 1348 a ship from Calais brought the Plague to Dorset in England. Other ships from Bordeaux carried Plague to Bristol and London. From Constantinople, ships carried the Plague to Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt
1349 Those fleeing from plague-ridden areas carried the infection with them - whole villages and towns were infected and wiped out, as the plague travelled down the Rhine valley, to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland. Plague spread rapidly through Britain, and also came by an infected ship to Norway. In the Middle East, the Plague spread from Egypt to Mesopotamia and Persia, reaching Mecca and Baghdad
1350-1351 The Plague spread from Norway to Sweden and then into Russia
1361-1636 Throughout Europe and the Middle East there were sporadic outbreaks of plague, about once every generation
1665-1666 The Great Plague of London - the English blamed it on the French, but it may have come from Holland, where there had been several outbreaks. Between 75,000 to 100,000 people died in London. The death rate was slackening, when the Great Fire of London broke out in September, 1666. The fire destroyed the central part of London where there were infestations of rats and fleas. After the city was rebuilt and better sanitation introduced there waas much less incidence of plague
1709-1711 Plagues in Sweden and Russia
1720-1738 Plagues in Marseilles, Eastern Europe
1771 Plague in Moscow
1882-1912 The Third Pandemic, started in China, spread to India, S. Africa, Hawaii, the USA (San Francisco), Australkia, Russia, S. America
1894 Alexandre Yersin identified the cause of Plague as the bacillus now known as yersenia pestis or pasteurella pestis
1898 Paul-Louis Simond, a French doctor, proved that Plague occurred in rats and was spread by rat fleas

Go here for the History of the period.

Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

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