The bright side of the black death

Patty Lee Shipman

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Abstract

The Black Death in Europe killed 30 to 50 percent of the entire population of Europe during 1348. Sharon DeWitte studied bones from burials before and after the first plague epidemic in the mid-1300s and showed that people were healthier and lived longer afterward. Despite repeated plague outbreaks and other episodes of crisis mortality, such as famines or volcanic eruptions, her study indicates that the general population enjoyed a period of at least 200 years during which mortality and survival overall improved compared to conditions before and during the Black Death. Looking simply at age at death, DeWitte found that a higher proportion of people lived to older ages after the Black Death. Descendants of plague survivors were more likely to live through their reproductive years, thus passing on whatever genetic advantages enabled their ancestors to survive the plague. Her study indicates that the general population enjoyed a period of at least 200 years during which mortality and survival overall improved compared to conditions before and during the Black Death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages410-413
Number of pages4
Volume102
No6
Specialist publicationAmerican Scientist
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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