rewriting history

The Black Death struck Europe in 1347, killing 30-50% of the European population in six violent years. These outbreaks were traditionally thought to be caused by rodent reservoirs of infected rats lurking in Europe’s cities, or potentially by rodent reservoirs in the wilderness.

But our research, published in the journal PNAS, suggests otherwise. We found that Europe’s plague outbreaks were indeed associated with climate fluctuations – but in Asia.

Using tree-ring based climate records from Europe and Asia, we showed that plague reintroductions into European harbours were associated with periods of wet conditions, followed by a drought, across large parts of Central Asia.

The Conversation, 24 February 2015