Nothing like this current pandemic has ever happened in my lifetime. Not in the lifetime of anyone living. It can and has sure taken on the dimensions of a doomsday scenario, hasn’t it? Even if we’re not all that afraid of catching the coronavirus and dying—the vast majority of people won’t—we’re still worried about the effect the panic will have. On the economy, on jobs, on everyday life. The image we have in our minds is out of proportion, though. No, nothing like this has happened in our lifetimes. But it did happen a hundred years ago. And it was way worse back then. The Spanish Flu epidemic of the early 20th Century, though, had nothing on the Black Death.
There were several instances in history when the bubonic plague, aka the Black Death, hit humanity, but none were as bad as the Black Death that ravaged the world between 1347 and 1351. Between a third to a half of the entire population of Europe died. People died so fast that they didn’t even have time to bury them. (Easy to see how a skeletal hand poking up out of a hastily dug shallow grave could have inspired a superstitious and already traumatized mind to imagine the corpse was “rising from the dead.”) The population of the world was reduced by half, with up to a hundred million deaths. The Black Death altered the course of western civilization and it took two centuries for Europe to recover.
It’s funny how looking at something as awful as the Black Death can make our present problems seem not so terrible, isn’t it?