Where did it come from?

It is believed that the disease originally came from China and was spread to Europe by merchants. It was brought to Melcombe, a port in Dorset, England by two French ships. Historians think that it was either brought over by a sailor who was on the ships or by fleas on rats that lived on the ship. It then quickly spread across the whole of England.   

How did it spread?

The plague spread as people fled in terror from one city to another to escape the dreaded disease. It also spread through trade routes from north to south and east to west throughout Europe. Merchants, sailors and traders brought the plague to other parts of Europe, and soon there was no escaping it, anywhere in Europe. 

In England, it is believed that the disease reached either Bristol or Dorset sometime in July or August 1348. Slowly, it spread through the countryside where wet crops lay in the fields, and in cities, where there was poor sanitation and overcrowding. It reached London in November 1348, and more than 30,000 people died as a result.

The maps below show the path that the Black Death took across Europe between 1347-1351.

The path of the plague