Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/595

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

have died of the plague. This may be but a mere estimate, it may be grossly inaccurate, but it nevertheless indicates the deadly character of the pestilence. According to a report made to Pope Clement VI, the total mortality for the known world was placed at forty-three millions. One-half the population of Italy succumbed. The Order of Minorites in Italy lost 300,000 members. The Order of Capuchins in Germany lost 126,000 members, while the total of deaths in Germany was placed at 1,200,000.

The invasion of Europe by the black death was sudden and rapid. The seeds of the disease, once planted on European soil, persisted, as might be expected, for no little time. Although the great epidemic was said to have lasted till 1360, it must not be inferred that it then ceased altogether. Diverse localities retained the infection, and, as a result, new outbreaks, though to a less extent, continued to outcrop during the following years. From that time on every decade or two witnessed more or less pronounced outbreaks of the disease in France, England and Italy. The chroniclers of those local outbreaks during the latter half of the fourteenth and during the entire fifteenth century did not always make it clear that the pestilence described was the real plague. It was but natural to include typhus and other diseases under the dreaded term of pest. Nevertheless, the frequency of these outbreaks indicates the persistence and the wide dissemination of the plague during those years.

During the sixteenth century the plague apparently began to show a decrease in its frequency, although during this period, as before, other epidemic diseases were mistaken for it. Germany, Holland, certain cities in France, and especially in Italy were scourged by the plague during this century. The noteworthy outbreak in Italy in 1575-77 was due to fresh importation from the Orient. The disease spread throughout Italy, and the devastation it caused was not inferior to that of the great plague two centuries before. For example, in 1576 in Venice 70,000 died of the disease.

During the seventeenth century the plague asserted itself with great severity. Following a famine, it prevailed in Russia in 16011603, and some idea of its destructiveness may be gained when it is stated that in Moscow alone 127,000 lives were taken. During the following decade even greater epidemics prevailed in Western Europe. France and England were invaded, and in Switzerland it even penetrated to the highest Alps. Basel in 1609-1611 had 4,000 deaths, while London in 1603 yielded 33,000.

The terrible epidemic which ravaged Northern Italy in 1629-1631 deserves more than a passing notice. During those years more than a million died of the disease. Scarcely a town in Northern Italy escaped. The city which, perhaps, suffered the most was Milan, where,