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During the 1300's, this spread from Asia across Europe. It is a disease that spreads quickly and kills large numbers of people. This illness is caused by a type of bacteria spread by fleas. Rats carry the fleas. This probably began in central Asia and spread to other places through trade. It first broke out in China in the 1330's. Between 40 and 60 million people eventually died, nearly half of the Chinese population. Trade between China, India, the Middle East, and Europe was greatly encouraged by the Mongols. Merchants used the Silk Road and other trade routes. Expanded trade also made it possible for this to spread quickly. In 1346, it reached the trading city of Caffa on the Black Sea. Italian ships carried it to the island of Sicily. From there, it spread to the Italian mainland and onto the continent of Europe. By the end of the 1340's, it had surfaced in France, Germany, and England. By 1351, it had reached Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Estimates of the dead in Europe between 1347 and 1351 range from 19 to 38 million people— nearly one out of every two Europeans. People at the time did not know why this had happened. Some people thought God was punishing them for their sins. Others blamed the Jews. For this reason, the Germans expelled many Jews from some of their cities. It had an enormous effect on the economy of Europe. With so many deaths, trade declined. Wages rose steeply because of a high demand for workers. Fewer people, though, meant less demand for food, so food prices fell sharply. Like the Crusades, it weakened feudalism.

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