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Word Count: 1,643
In the early 1330s an outbreak of deadly bubonic plague occurred in China Plague mainly affects rodents but fleas can transmit the disease to people Once people are infected they infect others very rapidly Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes which is how it gets its name The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black Since China was one of the busiest of the worlds trading nations it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of plague in China spread to western Asia and Europe In October of 1347 several Italian merchant ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea one of the key links in trade with China When the ships docked in Sicily many of those on board were already dying of plague Within days the disease spread to the city and the surrounding countryside The Black Death serves as a convenient divider between the central and the late Middle Ages The changes between the two periods are numerous they include the introduction of gunpowder increased importance of cities economic and demographic crises political dislocation and realignment and powerful new currents in culture and religion Overall the later Middle Ages are usually characterized as a period of crisis and trouble The portrait should not be painted unrelievedly bleak but the tone is accurate enough and echoes voices from the era itself The Black Death did not cause the crisis for evidence of the changes can be seen well before 1347 But the plague exacerbated problems and added new ones and the tone of crisis is graver in the second half than in the first half of the century Standing at the centurys mid-point the plague serves as a convenient demarcation The Black Death erupted in the Gobi Desert in the late 1320s No one really knows why The plague bacillus
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