| 9°C Belfast

Close

Premium

A plague on your houses: How disease and pandemics have shaped history and remade empires

The Black Death wiped out 50 years of economic progress, destroying nations and building others. Borzou Daragahi wonders what history can tell us about our post-pandemic future

Close

Sign of the times: coronavirus will result in changes to a number of areas of our lives

Sign of the times: coronavirus will result in changes to a number of areas of our lives

The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918

The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918

Sign of the times: coronavirus will result in changes to a number of areas of our lives

When Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, the last ruler of the Mongol empire's Ilkhanate, surveyed his domain in the year 1330, he must have been really pleased with himself. He held power over a vast region stretching from the Indus River to the Mediterranean. It included a network of trade and military routes that stretched thousands of miles across Persia and the Fertile Crescent into Anatolia.

The caravans carrying spices and fabrics generated vast wealth for him and his courtesans. Profits from tolls, taxes and tributes sustained a life of splendour for him, his wives and his offspring. He was only 25 years old. Within five years, it was all gone.

The Ilkhanate had disintegrated into a collection of squabbling armies overseen by lesser warlords, his achievements and successes forever obscured by time. Abu Sa'id himself was dead, either at the hands of his own men, or by a surging disease that was the primary cause of the unrest and agony throughout his domain: the Black Death.