Redating the Plague

3 Apr 2021

At www.smithsonianmag.com/history/did-black-death-rampage-across-world-more... ... which is a thesis by Monica Green published as 'The Four Black Deaths' in the American Historical Review in December of 2020. It basically re-writes the history of the black death by assuming it conformed to ordinay disease patterns. The basic claim is that it was not an extraordinary event and did not just suddenly emerge out of nowhere and wipe out a large portion of the developed world, at that time. It's effect on the less developed world is an unknown which again is not conceded.

Well, that is the sceptical bit and indeed it does fall into line with other revisions of history, and yet it may have a basis for the revised view. It is assumed by a lot of these academics that people in the medieval period were somewhat backward to themselves, and what they said might be pie in the sky, or superstition to put more flavour on their mindset. An awful lot of books have been written about the Black Death and it is generally reckoned that such a plague has occurred on a number of occasions - in the 6th century AD, for example, or around the beginning and towards the end of the third millennium BC. The plague is usually identified as having an animal origin, much like the recent outbreak of Covid. We don't know that as it is an assumption made by virologists as much as historians. It is also assumed it was spread by rodents - and Monica Green accepts this paradigm as well. Hence, one has to read between the lines of her revision of history.

The revision is at pains to say the plague did not 'explode' suddenly in the consciousness of the Medieval mind but had been at work for a century prior to the mid 14th century AD outbreak. It slowly crept up on the scribes and elites of the period. All the corpses were the end result of a slow process that had gathered pace after first breaking out in Tien Shan. It seems the Chinese are to blame for the plague as well as Covid. It may well have broken out in western China, or somewhere close by. Her thesis is that plague  took a hold in the local population of marmots, a large rodent that the Mongols used for their skins and meat. Unlike the marmots of Mongolia those of the Tien Shan mountain valleys were infected with plague. Quite how this occurred is overlooked. This is a link that has been noted by other historians, as the Mongol Empire fell apart as a result of the plague. Her next clue is that the people of Baghdad had imported grain from the Tien Shan region and during the seige of their city by the Mongols it is reported a disease had broken out and the inhabitants had thrown diseased bodies over the walls to avoid catching it themselves. The assumption is made that is was the plague and that this was the result of rodents arriving with the grain shipment, rats or mice I suppose. They had in turn caught the plague from the marmots - but do rats socialise with marmots? This is not entirely clear. It will be interesting how other historians react and whether or not they quote her thesis in their own work in the coming years. 

Meanwhile, at www.shh.mpg.de/1974167/izdebski-climate-miracles- ... and here we are in Italy, of the 6th century AD. Rather than cold weather in some parts of Europe the 6th century AD was wet in Italy. Lots of rain, storms, and flooding. The 6th century AD was  also the era of the early saints, and miracles. These very often involved the saints battling the element of water - flood waters and storms in the main. The story is published in a journal, Climatic Change, and concerns increased rainfall as a feature of climate change - in this instance, in the past. Increased rainfall in northern and central Italy is usually attributed to the North Atlantic Oscillation = reduced atmospheric pressure that allowed moist air from the northern Atlantic to reach further south than in normal circumstances. What caused the North Atlantic Oscillation to oscillate at this particular point in history is passed over. It happened. Therefore that is the cause. The fact that climate at this time altered on a global scale is ignored, After all, these were Italian saints [even though the Celtic saints were involved in a similar watery adversay]. It also ignores the fact there was a lot of tectonic activity going on as well, and cities such as Antioch, associated in the New Testament with early Christianity, were flattened on a couple of occasions, killing lots of people. Not so much a miracle. More a disaster.

The researchers looked at 'The Cult of Saints in Antiquity' - see http://csia.history.ox.ac.uk ... and claim to have 'analysed' many ancient and medieval texts in search of watery connections. The saints were invariably associated with bringing down upon an ungodly audience rains, storms, and flooding, or were able to put a stop to these watery problems. Geologists, geochemists and climate scientists were involved in the research.