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How did the Black Death affect Africa and Asia? (Short Animated Documentary)

3 minutes 11 seconds

Speaker 1

00:00:00 - 00:00:17

The Black Death ravaged medieval Europe across the mid-14th century. It's known that the disease made its way to Europe via the Black Sea and the surrounding trade routes. We all know how terrible it was in Europe, but something not often discussed is how it affected the rest of the world. So how exactly did it? How did the Black Death affect Africa and Asia?

Speaker 1

00:00:17 - 00:00:38

As many of you will know, the plague arrived in Europe in 1346, and at the same time it was being carried down south to the Islamic world. And here it also caused complete devastation. The first major state to bear the brunt in the region was the Mamluk Sultanate. Cairo and Alexandria saw vast mortalities and the plague soon spread across North Africa and into the Middle East. So how did the Islamic world respond differently to Europe?

Speaker 1

00:00:39 - 00:00:59

In Europe, the disease was known to be highly contagious, which is why in many places entered quarantines, people fled for the countryside or states closed their borders. Outsiders were largely seen as responsible for the plague. Whereas in the Middle East, the plague wasn't seen as infectious. People refused to leave their hometowns and in many cases they were forbidden from doing so. There was also a fundamental difference in how Muslims saw the plague.

Speaker 1

00:00:59 - 00:01:21

Whilst Christians saw it as divine punishment, Muslims saw it as just another part of life and there wasn't much in the way of a mass panic. And in the end, much like the Christian world, this led to widespread death and destruction and both recovered from the plague at roughly the same point. As for Sub-Saharan Africa, well, there's no evidence to suggest that the plague ever got there. Which must have been nice. So what about the world's 2 largest population centres, China and India?

Speaker 1

00:01:21 - 00:01:42

China at this point was ruled by the Yuan dynasty which was keen on keeping records. Its bureaucrats recorded any and all natural disasters and disease outbreaks, and so if the plague were there it would have been known, right? Well, sort of. There were numerous outbreaks of disease across the mid-14th century in China, but it's not known if any of them were the plague. The reason being that these outbreaks weren't seen as anything special.

Speaker 1

00:01:42 - 00:02:13

Unlike in Europe and the Middle East, there was no mention of buboes or necrotic fingers or anything of the like, which is why these outbreaks could be smallpox or flu, since those writing about it saw them as quite run-of-the-mill. And in India, which at the time was mostly dominated by the Sultanate of Delhi, there's no evidence to suggest that the plague ever reached it. Delhi was a major trading partner of both the Ilkhanate and the Mamluk Sultanate and yet, it didn't see the plague spread there. There were epidemics during the time, but like China, these weren't seen as special enough to warrant any further description. Which leaves everybody completely in the dark about whether or not the plague reached the area.

Speaker 1

00:02:13 - 00:02:41

And there is some supporting evidence that these 2 regions didn't suffer the Black Death at the same time as Europe and the Middle East. And this is because in later centuries when the bubonic plague did infect the regions, it was absolutely devastating in a way that it wasn't for Europe or the Middle East contemporarily. The people who lived in Europe and the Middle East had built up immunities over the centuries, in a way that those in India or China simply never could. Again though, none of this is known for certain. No 1 can say with 100% surety where the Black Death didn't go, only that where it did go, it caused complete devastation.

Speaker 1

00:02:41 - 00:02:41

I hope you enjoyed this episode and a special thanks to my Patrons... James Bizonette, Kelly Moneymaker, Sky Chappell, Korsha Wolfe, Jerry Lambdin, Jordan Longley, Adam Stalter, Marcus Arsner, YN Hockey, Spencer Lightfoot, Rod D. Martin, Words About Books Podcast, Captain Psydog, Gustav Swan, Marvin Casal, Camoon Yoon, Winston K. Wood, Boogily Woogily, Daniel Tobian, Miss Iset, Aaron the White, Corey Turner, the McWhopper, Alex Schwin, Anthony Beckett, Copper Tone, Maggie Paskowski, Shuenin, Spinning 3 Plates, and Charles I.