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Dates of the 'Black Death'

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In the article on the motives for early European overseas expansion, "The Impetus of Spain's Westward Expansion," Jan. 22, the author, citing historian Juan Gil, writes: "The Black Plague of the middle of the 15th century acted as a kind of 'economic brake' in Europe, says Gil. But by the end of the century the economy had started rolling again."

If, as I assume, the author means by the "Black Plague" the Black Death, this calamity occurred in the mid 14th century, not the 15th.

The Black Death, which was the initial outbreak of the plague pandemic, may have resulted in a population decline of one-third in a region stretching from Western Europe and North Africa to the Middle East and Central Asia.

Since eruptions of plague recurred at several intervals during the second half of the 14th century, demographic and economic recovery got underway only in the first half of the 15th. It was then that the Iberian seaborne expansion was launched, a Castilian expedition landing on the Canary Islands in 1402 and a Portuguese fleet seizing the Moroccan coastal city of Ceuta in 1415. Ross E. Dunn, San Diego Professor of History, San Diego State University

[Editor's note: The author of the article transcribed Mr. Gil's comment incorrectly.]

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