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Sóttir og samfélag.

Höfundur:
Birtist í
No data was found
Ártal:
1996
Bls:
177-218
DOI:
Í þessari grein er íslensk sóttarfarssaga skoðuð í erlendu samhengi og færð rök fyrir því að Svarti dauði sem hingað barst í byrjun 15. aldar hafi haft varanleg áhrif á fólksfjöldaþróun íslands um aldir. Plágan var að stofni til kýlapest og forsenda þess að hún breiddist út voru rottur. Pestin sannar tilvist rotta á þeim tíma sem hún geisaði. Telja má víst að mannfall hafi verið minna en 45% en ómögulegt er að áætla það með nokkurri vissu út frá heimildum. Í kjölfar plágunnar fylgdu aðrar drepsóttir sem héldu fólksfjöldanum í skefjum fram á 18. öld, og fámenni þjóðarinnar var ein meginorsök vanþróunar landsins.
This article, Epidemics and Society, deals with the history of epidemics and population in Iceland in its European context. It is argued that the Black Death was a bubonic plague and that it had permanent influence on Icelandic demographic history for centuries. There is no indication that the plague in Iceland was any different from that in Europe, as Icelandic scholars have recently stated in Saga 1994. The Black Death reached Iceland for the first time in 1402, probably as a consequence of the arrival of a merchant ship from England. The bacillus bearers of the plague were rats and fleas. lcelandic historians have stated that the plague was pneumonic and the mortality rate was about 50-70%. Their statement is not supported by scientific evidence. The exclusion of the possibility that the plague was bubonic is based on the conviction of most Icelandic scholars that there were no rats in medieval Iceland, a conclusion mainly derived from a single 17th century source. Recent archaeological evidence, as well as written sources from the 18th century, have shown that rats existed in Iceland in the 17th and 18th centuries, at least temporarily and in some localities. The possibility of a temporary invasion of rats before that time cannot be excluded. The plague itself proves the existence of rats in Iceland. Only two epidemics are known, the first in 1402-1404 and the second in 1494-1495, but the plague did not become endemic in Iceland. The only reliable sources regarding the plague are a few medieval documents and the near contemporary annal, Nýi annáll. From these sources it is only possible to conclude that the plague reached a few ecclesiastical institutions and only some parts of the country. However, it is impossible to estimate mortality from the numerical examples cited. Attempts to estimate mortality based on numbers of deserted farms a few decades after the plague are meaningless. The mortality is likely to be no higher than 25-45%, the same as has been estimated for Europe. The plague of 1402 was the first known disaster in Icelandic demographic history. Later waves of lethal epidemics, especially smallpox, followed. That is the prime reason explaining why the size of the population did not recover for centuries after the Plague. The high variability in the growth of population, that characterizes Icelandic demography, started most likely in the early part of the 15th century. That is analogous to what happened in Europe except that the continuous increase in population began earlier on the mainland.