50 Black Death Quotes About a Dark Time in History

Get some context and learn something new with our Black Death quotes. 

Scholars have studied the Black Death for years and have found that the more we learn about the past, the better informed we are in the present. 

Check out our Black Death quotes below to learn more. 

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What was the Black Death?

The Black Death, or the Plague, was a bubonic pandemic that occurred in Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa from 1346 to 1353.

The Black Death remains the most fatal pandemic ever recorded. 

Check out these Black Death facts below: 

  • The Black Death killed between  75-200 million people. 
  • The Black Death completely changed European culture. 
  • Bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. 

What caused the Black Death?

The origins of the pandemic are still disputed.

Scholars and historians differ on how the Black Death spread so quickly across the continents of Europe, Eurasia, and Africa. 

Many attribute the spreading to fleas, others to rats, and others to human-on-human contact. 

How many people died during the Black Death?

The death toll is disputed. 

Some suggest seventy-five million people, while others suggest two hundred million perished. 

Some estimates suggest half of Europe’s population was destroyed. 

This massive death toll resulted in changes in religion, the economy, healthcare, and every facet of human life. 

Wait, we sing nursery rhymes about the Black Death?

Many children have heard the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie,” and like most people, they think it’s a children’s song. 

However, if you pay attention to the lyrics, you see that the themes of this rhyme are pretty dark. 

Telltale symptoms of the Black Death were ring-like sores and large bubble-like wounds on a person’s body.

These rosy or red-colored rings were painful for the sick person and unpleasant for anyone to look at.  

“Ashes to ashes, we all fall down” refers to the gargantuan efforts of churches, governments, and community members to burn the bodies of those who died from the Black Death. 

Short Black Death quotes about a dark time in human history

The Black Death wiped out a large portion of the population in a small amount of time. 

1. “All has been looted, betrayed, sold; black death’s wing flashed ahead.” — Anna Akhmatova

2. “This, then, is the reason the history of the Black Death is important: it made history.” — Ole Jørgen Benedictow

3. “I guess I’m the Black Death, he said slowly. I don’t seem to bring people happiness anymore.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. “Both of us victims of the same twentieth-century plague. Not the Black Death, this time; the Gray Life.” Aldous Huxley

5. “I have made my bed in charnels and on coffins, where black death keeps record of the trophies won.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

6. “I am extraordinarily passionate about the Black Death, which is not something most people are into.” — Mira Grant

7. “The population of Egypt probably did not return to its pre-Black Death levels until the nineteenth century.” — Sevket Sevket Pamuk 

8. “Many are aware of the Black Death’s deadly nature, but the true mortality is far greater than popular audiences think.” — Ole Jørgen Benedictow

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9. “These results suggest the Black Death did not kill indiscriminately, but it did discriminate less sharply than death normally does.” — DeWitte and Wood

10. “If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation, survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full.”Bertrand Russell

The best Black Death quotes about contagion and catastrophe

These quotes give you an idea of how devastating the Black Death was. 

11. “We are all bound thither; we are hastening to the same common goal. Black death calls all things under the sway of its laws.” — Ovid

12. “King Alfonso XI of Castile was the only reigning monarch killed by the pest.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

13. “After the Black Death, the King’s government became responsible for running the whole society.” — Robert C. Palmer

14. “By the mid-fifteenth century, rather than being targets, Jews participated alongside Christians in processions to forestall the plague.” — Samuel Cohn

15. “The Egyptians had the locusts, and in the Middle Ages, there was the Black Death with the rats, but tourists are the plague of our century, and we’ll not survive this one.” — Richard Conniff

16. “Coming out of the East, the Black Death reached the shores of Italy in the spring of 1348, unleashing a rampage of death across Europe unprecedented in recorded history.” — Eyewitness To History, Black Death, 1348

Quotes about the impact of black death

Additional quotes showcasing how devastating this time period was.

17. “The catastrophic plague known as the Black Death hit Europe in 1348 and swept through the continent rapidly. It would eventually kill between a third and half of the population.” — Cotton Faustina 

18. “Real wages roughly doubled from the 1340s until the middle of the fifteenth century. In each country or region, real wages tended to reach their peak a little later than the low point in population.” — Sevket Pamuk 

19. “A vital portion of the qualitative roots of Tudor governance… was the change in governmental approach and the great expansion of legal subject matter jurisdiction that began with the Black Death.” — Robert C. Palmer

20. “As if the world were indeed in the grasp of the Evil One, its first appearance on the European mainland in January 1348 coincided with a fearsome earthquake that carved a path of wreckage from Naples up to Venice. The destruction went as far as Germany and Greece.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror

The top Black Death quotes about the plague ravaged Europe

These quotes and first-hand accounts tell the story of how people suffered during the Black Plague. 

21. “In crowded Avignon, a single graveyard received 11,000 corpses in a week.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

22. “It devastated the Western World from 1347 to 1351, killing 20-50% of Europe’s population.” — Robert Gottfried

23. “For some parts of Europe, agrarian population density did not recover until the early 19th century.” — Ziegler, P

24. “To the chroniclers of Padua, the plague was a devastation more final than Noah’s flood – when God had left some people alive.” — Rosemary Horrox

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25. “It used to be thought that the Black Death originated in China, but new research shows that it began in the spring of 1346 in the steppe region.” — Ole J. Benedictow

26. “Father abandoned child, wife husband, one brother another; for this illness seemed to strike through the breath and sight. And so they died. And none could be found to bury the dead for money or friendship.” — Agnolo the Fat

More of the top Black Death quotes about the plague

Learn more about the impact of black death in the world.

27. “The importance of the black rat and its fleas in the transmission of plague in medieval European plague is disputed, because rats were absent in large areas of northern Europe during the second plague pandemic.” — Boris Schmid 

28. “In England, in strange and almost sinister process, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Stratford,  died in August 1348, his appointed successor died in May 1349, and the next appointee three months later, all three within a year.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

29. “The passing bells rang all day and all night… Filled with the sound of mourning, the city [Tournai]  became oppressed by fear so that the authorities forbade the tolling of bells and the wearing of black and restricted funeral services to two mourners.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

30. “By contagion, they clearly meant person-to-person transmission by breath, touch, or occasionally by sight, and, although the term was applied to other maladies, it was mainly reserved for describing plague, in order to distinguish it from other diseases.” — Samuel K. Cohn

Famous Black Death quotes from The Plague by Albert Camus

The Plague is a novel that tells the horrors of how the Black Plague tears through a town. 

31. “There are more things to admire in men than to despise.”  Albert Camus, The Plague

32. “But there are always flies and itches. That’s why life is difficult to live.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

33. “But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints.” — Albert Camus, The Plague

34. “The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

35. “Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

36. “In fact, it comes to this: nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

37. “For who would dare to assert that eternal happiness can compensate for a single moment’s human suffering.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

38. “I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment, I know this: there are sick people, and they need curing.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

39. “All I can say is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims– and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

40. “Well, personally, I’ve seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don’t believe in heroism; I know it’s easy, and I’ve learned that it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves.”  — Albert Camus, The Plague

Black Death quotes and sayings from history

These quotes about the Black Death put its impact into perspective for us. 

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41. “Clement VI found it necessary to grant remissions of sin to all who died of the plague because so many were unattended by priests.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

42. “Of particular importance was the sudden appearance of the plague over vast distances, due to its rapid transportation by ship.” — Ole J. Benedictow

43. “People died without last rites and were buried without prayers. A Bishop in England gave permission for laymen to make confessions to each other as was done by the Apostles.” — Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror 

44. “Ring around the rosie. A pocket full of posie. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. Some people say that this poem is about the Black Death, the fourteenth-century plague that killed 100 million people.”  — Scott Westerfeld

45. “In Florence, Genoa, Venice, and most of northern Italy, expenditures on warfare increased exponentially after the Black Death to the fifteenth century, as shown by the soaring of state indebtedness.” — Samuel Cohn

Additional Quotes about Black Death

Here are a few more quotes explaining black death and its results.

46. “From the Crimea, Pasteurella pestis and the plague took ship and traveled to Constantinople and Sicily in the year 1347, Egypt and Syria in 1348, and spread to the rest of Europe in the following years.” — Sevket Pamuk 

47. “Even a cursory look at real wage series makes clear that modern economic growth and the Black Death are the two events that led to the most significant changes in wages and incomes during the last millennium.” — Sevket Pamuk 

48. “Ships traveled at an average speed of around 40km a day [which] meant that the Black Death easily moved 600km in a fortnight by ship. By land, the average spread was much slower: up to 2km per day along the busiest highways or roads.” — Ole J. Benedictow

49. “Women were recruited into the [English] workforce, partly because they could be hired more cheaply, and partly because they were often the only available source of labor. In some years, women could be found doing jobs, such as harrowing, that in the past had been confined primarily to men.” — Mavis E. Mate 

50. “The Black Death caused urban real wages to rise by as much as 100 percent in the decades after 1350, and they remained above their earlier levels until late in the sixteenth century not only in western Europe and the western half of the Mediterranean but also around the eastern Mediterranean.” — Sevket Pamuk 

What can we learn from the Black Death?

The Black Death changed how we quarantine and protect ourselves from disease. 

Considering the present-day pandemics and threats to our health, we can learn a lot from the past. 

What was your favorite Black Death quote?

Let us know in the comments below. 

Clifton Sankofa has Master's degrees in English, Teaching, and School Leadership. He is a veteran educator and school leader. Clifton has built his career around teaching language arts, social-emotional learning, hip-hop(e), and vegan cooking. Across the country, Black and Brown communities die over preventable diseases. Clifton's aim is to help reverse this trend through cultural shifts. Using hip-hop and cultural-centered activities, he educates young people on how to reclaim their health and heritage through sustainable vegan eating, cooking practices, and literacy skills.
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