The Black Death of 1348 and 1349, and the recurrent epidemics of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were the most devastating natural disasters ever to strike Europe. We cannot cite exact losses; there are no global figures. The populations of some cities and villages, in areas as far removed from each other as England and Italy, fell in the late decades of the fourteenth century by 70 or 80 percent. The more we learn of the late medieval collapse in human numbers, the more awesome it appears. Europe about 1420 could have counted barely more than a third of the people it contained one hundred years before.
- From The Black Death and the Transformation of the West by David Herlihy