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Not the new Black Death

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Coronavirus pales next to the plague that killed half of Europe, says David Horspool

I’m always wary of ‘lessons from history’. Still, at the moment there is one event from the distant past that offers a parallel, or perhaps a warning. When we deal with it, we should don the historical equivalent of a hazmat suit before drawing any conclusions. The Black Death arrived in Europe in 1347, having already devastated Central Asia, southern Russia and Constantinople. It came to Italy first, arriving in Genoa when a vessel docked with a diseased crew fleeing the plague in the East. Another infected crew, according to a contemporary, arrived in Venice around the same time. ‘And when one person had contracted the illness, he poisoned his whole family even as he fell and died… Thus death entered through the windows, and as cities and towns were depopulated, their inhabitants mourned their dead neighbours.’ Without any knowledge of how to stop the spread of the disease, the...

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