8. The Great Plague of Vienna, part of a wider pandemic across Europe during the late-17th century, killed tens of thousands in the imperial city alone
The Great Plague of Vienna, striking the imperial city of the House of Habsburg in 1679 in a manner reminiscent of its London predecessor a decade earlier, was a crippling recurrence of the bubonic plague. Vienna, suffering persistently from periodic outbreaks ever since the first emergence of the bubonic plague in the fourteenth century due to its position as a trading hub, like many others so-afflicted was crippled by the epidemic. Claiming an estimated 76,000 inhabitants, doctors treated patients with the unscientific method of bloodletting before depositing the deceased in open-air pits exposing the wider population to greater infection.
Although memorialized as “of Vienna”, the city’s outbreak was merely one of a far larger epidemic across the neighboring regions. Caught at an intersection of the disease, infected from the West after earlier outbreaks there and from the East by trade routes from the source, several urban centers of Europe endured similar torments. Prague buried approximately 83,000 residents, the city of Halle in Germany lost almost half its population, whilst Dresden, Cologne, and Magdeburg, among other settlements, experienced their own plague outbreaks. It was not until 1707 that the epidemic subsided and disappeared from Germany at large.
7. Accompanying the Great Northern War, a plague outbreak obliterated the populations of several Eastern European cities and reduced national populations dramatically
The Great Northern War (1700-1721), fought between a Russian led confederacy against the Swedish Empire, was accompanied, as many conflicts were, with an outbreak of plague. Peaking between 1708-1712, the pandemic is believed to have entered Europe via Constantinople before spreading to eventually afflict a region spanning Central Asia to the Mediterranean. Provoking a hysterical response among contemporaries, unable to comprehend the cause and nature of transmission, quarantine protocols were instituted. Entire cities, including for example Königsberg, were isolated and plague houses became tantamount to death sentences.
Although the last major plague outbreak to affect the Circum-Baltic region, it registered among perhaps the worst since the Black Death itself. Whilst some regions and cities endured comparatively unscathed, with Hamburg, for instance, suffering nine to ten thousand fatalities equating to only ten to fifteen percent of the population, others, especially settlements in Prussia, were less fortunate. Malmö suffered losses of thirty to forty percent, Stockholm in excess of one-third, whilst Tallinn, Gdansk, and Riga suffered casualties exceed two-thirds of their population. In total it is estimated approximately 150,000 people were killed during just the peak years of the outbreak.
6. Introduced via French refugees fleeing a slave rebellion, the city of Philadelphia was rendered anarchic by an epidemic of Yellow Fever in 1793
In the spring of 1793, two thousand French refugees from the colony of Cap Français, Saint-Domingue, arrived in Philadelphia fleeing an on-going slave revolution on the island of Hispaniola. Unintentionally carrying individuals already infected with yellow fever, as well as a host of mosquitoes, by the autumn their arrival had triggered the first yellow fever outbreak for more than thirty years. Instigating a mass exodus from the temporary capital city of fifty thousand residents, the United States government, including President Washington, abandoned the city, and within six weeks more than twenty thousand people had fled into the surrounding countryside.
Peaking in October, almost 5,000 deaths were registered with yellow fever as the cause of death across a fourteen week period. Eventually, with winter incoming, the November frosts eradicated the imported mosquitoes and naturally ended the surging epidemic. The crisis exposed serious social cracks in American society, however, with neighboring settlements, panicked by the outbreak, denying aid or assistance to Philadelphians en masse resulting in a humanitarian disaster. Furthermore, blacks were enlisted in the inaccurate belief they were naturally immune to remove the bodies of the infected, resulting in racially disparate rates of contraction.