Introduction: Black Death (01:29)
In 1349, the Black Death, the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history, reached Britain. Researchers excavated bodies of the dead.
Bubonic Plague (02:23)
Britain's preparation against biological warfare is centered in Porton Down, Wiltshire. Bubonic plague still exists, especially in Madagascar.
Plague Approaches Britain (01:59)
Bubonic plague spread near Britain's shores by 1348. Edward III's government made preparations; the plague killed his daughter.
Emergency Grave (00:56)
In anticipation of the spreading plague, Britain's government created a graveyard outside London, believed to be in what is now Charterhouse Square.
Archaeologists Access Grave (01:43)
Railway construction underneath London gave archaeologists access to a burial ground for plague victims.
Bone Analysis (02:12)
Researchers analyzed plague victims' skeletons, drawing demographic conclusions.
Death Toll Unknown (01:42)
The Black Plague's death toll in London has been a mystery; contemporary descriptions are vague on numbers.
Merchants' Wills (02:56)
From court records indicate the plague lasted nine months and killed 60% of London's population.
Shoemaker's Will (02:18)
A will written during the plague divides a shoemaker's property between his wife, his son, and a soon-to-be-born infant.
Vulnerability to Plague (03:04)
The Black Death left no direct trace on bones. Victims' bones reveal malnutrition and disease earlier in life, which would have weakened immune systems.
Famine and Plague (02:23)
Frequent famines, starting in 1290, left immune systems vulnerable to the Black Death.
London Avoids Collapse (01:40)
London's management of dead bodies reveals their resilience and administrative abilities, explaining how the city continued functioning.
Plague Victim Burials (01:59)
Edward III implemented a system of trenches for rapid, but ordered Christian burial- crucial to maintaining social stability.
Continued Search for Graves (01:46)
A researcher finds some burial grounds less densely packed than he expected. He concludes there are other burial sites not yet discovered.
Social Cohesion (01:14)
Like modern disaster planners, Edward III recognized that care for dead bodies is crucial for survivor morale.
Additional Burial Sites (02:02)
Radar mapping reveals possible burials in the Black Death cemetery, far beyond Charterhouse Square.
Bubonic Plague DNA (02:15)
Experts posited mutation to account for the rapid spread of Black Death. DNA analysis reveals DNA identical to modern strains.
Plague Contagions (00:57)
An expert believes the Bubonic Plague began spreading directly between people in the fourteenth century.
Suffolk Plague Outbreak (03:07)
In 1906, rats brought an Asian plague outbreak to Suffolk; an expert thinks humans spread it. A victim's descendant gives an account of the family and community.
Pneumonic Plague (01:15)
In Suffolk, the plague brought pneumonia when it entered victims' lungs, facilitating its direct spread.
Londoners shut themselves off from outside contact, but were infected by family members; wills reveal relatives dying in rapid succession.
Summary: Black Death (02:06)
Skeletons indicate that famines weakened Londoners' immune systems before the Black Death. Rats brought plagues, but people spread it directly.
Credits: Return of the Black Death (00:30)
Credits: Return of the Black Death
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