Portraits of a plague: the 19th-century pandemic that killed 12 million people

Between 1855 and 1959 – more than 500 years after the medieval Black Death – a new plague pandemic ravaged the globe, killing some 12 million people. Here, we share some of the images collected in an ongoing project which vividly depict the outbreaks...

Chinese plague

This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

What was the Third Plague Pandemic?

The Third Plague Pandemic (1855–1959) was unprecedented for a number of reasons. For the first time in history, bubonic plague reached all five continents, striking major cities from Hong Kong (in 1894) to Bombay (1896), Sydney (1900), Cape Town (1901) and Los Angeles (1924). The pandemic left an estimated 12 million dead (including 10 million on the Indian subcontinent), and saw the implementation of extraordinary measures for its containment.

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