Jueves, 22 Diciembre 2016 16:58

The plague that devastated Cordoba in 1488 is studied for the first time

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Research reveals the origin and consequences of the illness that killed hundreds of Andalusians in the late 15th century 

History books set the end of the Middles Ages in Europe as the 15th century, an age of extremely important and historical political and social events. The invention of the printing press, Columbus’ voyage to America and the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain, first, and the annihilation of the Moriscos afterwards, are only some of the most highlighted milestones in history text books. Nevertheless, civil history is made up of events that differ greatly from the big scientific and political events. In Andalusia, the 15th century was the century of the plague epidemics. Seville, Malaga and Granada witnessed thousands of their inhabitants die while Isabel and Ferdinand tried to finish their conquest of Al Andalus.

In Cordova, the year 1488 is the darkest year of the late 15th century due to the Bubonic plague which devastated the city. Only a few years after having been the center of the Christian court, the city suffered from an illness of which little was known until the recent publication in Anuario de Estudios Medievales (Medieval Studies Yearly) by University of Cordova professor Margarita Cabrera. Her research was carried out based on notarial documents and bundles of papers held in the Archivo Histórico Provincial (Historical County Archives) and according to which the deaths from the plague reached their peak in the summer months of 1488.

The city shut down, the nobility ran off to die in the countryside, and meanwhile the notaries public could not keep up with writing up all the wills. In fact, according to Margarita Cabrera there is a remarkable difference in the number of wills in the summer months (in June alone 129 were drawn up and in July another 73) and the normal number in other times (an average of about 5.75 per month). Furthermore, the research established two means of infection of the plague based on the documents. The first, through normal trade relations between Cordova and Seville, affected by the plague in 1486 and 1487, and the other, through contact with the Muslim prisoners taken after the conquest of  Malaga in 1487.

According to Professor Cabrera, based on the writings of the chroniclers of that time such as Andrés Bernáldez, the consequence of that epidemic was a truly  “demographic catastrophe” in a city with a population at the time of approximately 25,000. Bernáldez reported 15,000 deaths, although experts consider this number somewhat exaggerated. However it was, what is clear is that the plague did not discriminate between social classes or religions, although Margarita Cabrera found interesting cases of survivors such as that of the juror Sancho de Clavijo, who in spite of spending months caring for his sick family managed to survive the illness.

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