“The pollen tells us that the Black Death was terrible… but not that bad”

  • Adam Izdebski, Alessia Massi, and Timothy P. Newfield
  • The Conversation*

A rat next to a skull

image source, Getty Images

In the popular imagination, the Black Death is the most devastating pandemic that has affected Europe. Between 1346 and 1353, it is believed that it reached almost, if not all, the corners of the continent, killing between 30% and 50% of the population.

This account is based on texts and documents written by state or church officials and other literate witnesses.

But, as with all medieval sources, the geographical coverage of this documentation is uneven. While some countries, like Italy or England, can be studied in detail, there are only vague hints about others, like Poland.

Not surprisingly, researchers have struggled to correct this imbalance and discover different ways to estimate the extent of mortality from the Black Death.

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