Death Ships: Everything About The Ships That Brought The Plague To Europe

By | April 13, 2020

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The Plague in Marseille, 1726, engraving.

Pandemics don't just appear out of thin air. That's why social distancing is so important: The further we stay away from other people, the lower the chance we have of coming into contact with deadly germs. This is doubly true during a pandemic and doubly-doubly true in the Middle Ages. After all, these days, with the Amazons and the Instacarts, avoiding other people is fairly easy. Way back when, however, if the merchant ships didn't get all up in your harbor, you weren't eating (at least, not as well). Unfortunately, they also sometimes killed you. Such was the case of the merchant ships who brought the bubonic plague to Europe, A.K.A. the Death Ships of the Great Plague.

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Trade between Europe and the East was well established by the 1300s. (

International Trade In The Middle Ages

International trade was a booming business in the Middle Ages. Businessmen in Italy, Spain, and Turkey had established suppliers of goods such as spices, silk, perfume, and salt from places as far away as India, China, and Arabia. Merchant ships sailed from port to port in the Mediterranean Sea, around Africa, and beyond, while overland routes took traders and merchants through the Middle East and into India and China. More than ever before in human history, people could interact across vast distances.