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The Black Death epidemic of 1347–1351 was one of the most serious catastrophes in human history, yet it continues to be imperfectly described because of the small and often uncertain amount of information recorded and preserved. Analysis of data from 53 cities, with 200 to 120,000 residents, shows a relationship between urban population at the beginning of the epidemic and duration of the epidemic, thus throwing some light on the characteristics of the pestilence. A further relevance of the finding is its utility for estimating and resolving contradictory information. On a first application, we show that the population and fatalities of London in all likelihood were higher than the most widely accepted estimates and that those of Florence and Paris must have been smaller.