Climate History Network

A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change

Y. pestis Genome and Environmental Crisis in the 14th Century

In a new study published  in Nature (and receiving a lot of coverage in the media), a team of researchers have sequenced the genome of Y. pestis in English victims of the Black Death.  The authors argue that the bacterium has changed remarkably little since the 14th century, and so they emphasize that environmental and climate factors (presumably the Great Famine of the 1310s and the general cooling trend in Northern Europe) played a major role in the virulence of the outbreak.  Curiously, the authors also argue that Y. pestis as we know it probably isn’t older than the 13th century, which adds another twist to the debate over the etiology of the Plague of Justian.

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About Sam White

Assistant Professor of History at the Ohio State University

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This entry was posted on October 17, 2011 by in In the News, Publications.
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