Rats not to blame for the Black Death, says historian

Historians in the News

After more than 650 years being blamed for the Black Death, it seems the humble black rat may have been the victim of a smear campaign. In a new book, archaeologist Barney Sloane has declared that there is no evidence that the disease, which killed more than half the population of Europe in the fourteenth century, was spread by vermin after all.

It has always been assumed that the disease, which arrived in London in 1348, was brought there by rats and fleas. But in his book The Black Death in London, Sloane argues otherwise.

He told the Guardian: "We ought to be finding great heaps of dead rats in all the waterfront sites but they just aren't there. And all the evidence I've looked at suggests the plague spread too fast for the traditional explanation of transmission by rats and fleas. It has to be person to person – there just isn't time for the rats to be spreading it.

"It was certainly the Black Death but it is by no means certain what that disease was, whether in fact it was bubonic plague."...

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