This study examines the interaction of transmission of disease with the formation of both real and social capital. Prior to the middle-ages, the plague had visited the Mediterranean basin during several periods, but transmission to northern Europe had been limited. Part of the Black Death’s incredible lethality (one out of three Europeans died) from 1347-1353 was supposedly due to the lack of resistance among previously disease free populations in northern Europe. Although the etiologic contribution of this specific zoonosis in terms of rodents and their fleas is well-known, the social epidemiology of the disease transmission is less clear. This paper examines the contribution of the north German trading network known as the Hanseatic League in transmitting the Black Death from the Mediterranean to the North and Baltic Seas and the surrounding countries. Organizational and historical analysis indicates that the League, an association of merchants within German towns and cities, was a classic example of a group characterized by strong social capital creating real capital in an international trading environment. The development of the League, with both north-south and east-west water and land trading networks centered on the cloth trade of the low-countries and the wheat and timber products of eastern Europe, was directly causal in the transmission of the Black Death throughout Europe. Examples of the interaction of social capital, real capital, and disease transmission within the historic milieu will be discussed.
|Keywords:||International Trade, Hanseatic League, Epidemiology, Plague, Black Death, Medieval Europe|
Professor and Chair, School of Public and Community Health Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA
Professor of Biostatistics, School of Public and Community Health Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA
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