- The great epidemic of bubonic plague that killed a large part of the population of Europe in the mid 14th century. It originated in central Asia and China and spread rapidly through Europe, carried by the fleas of black rats, reaching England in 1348 and killing between one third and one half of the population in a matter of months.
a modern term (compare with earlier the (great) pestilence, great death, the plague), said to have been introduced into English history by Mrs. Markham (pseudonym of Mrs. Penrose) in 1823, and into medical literature by a translation of German der Schwarze Tod (1833). The epithet Black is of uncertain origin; its equivalent was first found in Swedish and Danish chroniclers.
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