Medical History

Mary Storm mnstorm at MAC.COM
Wed Oct 29 14:51:32 UTC 2008

Dear Dan,

Thank you!  I shall try to find this article. This volcanic theory  
sounds very interesting.

I suppose the East to West theory rests on the notion of the origins  
of the black rat vector and if that is challenged then the whole East  
West spread is questionable, but there are Ibn Battuta's descriptions  
from 1345 in South India, and then the subsequent stories of the  
Genoese ships sailing from Kaffa in the Crimea in 1347, that support  
this particular narrative.

I know there is now also a lot of speculation that the 14th c. plague  
was not even necessarily yersinia pestis. It is astounding that there  
is still so much speculation for one of the world's worst disasters.

I shall continue, I am very grateful to all of you who have provided  

All Best,

Mary Storm, Ph.D.
Academic Director
North India Arts and Culture
Himalayan Buddhist Art and Architecture
SIT Study Abroad
School for International Training

Mobile +91 98106 98003
F-301 Lado Sarai
2nd Fl
New Delhi 110030  India

On 29-Oct-08, at 8:30 PM, Dan Lusthaus wrote:

> Dear Mary,
> There has been some discussion in recent years about the assumption  
> that
> plagues invariably traveled from the East (China, India) westward  
> across the
> Silk Road, eventually infecting Europe, the counterargument (with  
> mounting
> evidence) that instead at least some of the major plagues (Black  
> Death,
> etc.) started in the Mediterranean or Caspian regions and then spread
> eastward as well as through Europe. The Black Plague, for instance,  
> may have
> been brought back to China by the Mongolians at that time invading  
> Eastern
> Europe and North Africa, bringing an end to the Mongol invasions,  
> and the
> end of the Yuan dynasty in China.
> One theory on the Justinian plague is that volcanic activity in the
> Mediterranean region was a precipitating cause. See
> The Mystery Cloud of 536 CE in the Mediterranean Sources
> Author(s): Antti Arjava
> Source: Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 59 (2005), pp. 73-94
> Published by: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University
> Stable URL:
> If so, then outbreaks in India or China, if they occurred, would be
> peripheral collateral damage. There were a variety of smallpox, etc.,
> outbreaks in China, some corresponding to dynasty changes, though,  
> as far as
> I know, the end of the sixth century through the tenth c. was not a  
> time of
> plagues (the Tang dynasty, I believe, was relatively stable,  
> partially due
> to the absence of such plagues).
> Dan Lusthaus

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