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The Great Plague of Seville (1647–1652) was a massive outbreak of disease in Spain that killed up to a quarter of Seville's population.

Unlike the plague of 1596–1602 which claimed 600,000 to 700,000 lives, or a little under 8% of the population, and initially struck northern and central Spain and Andalucía in the south, the Great Plague, which may have arisen in Algeria, struck the Mediterranean side of Spain first. The coastal city of Valencia was the first city to be hit, losing an estimated 30,000 people. The disease chewed through Andalucía in addition to sweeping the north into Catalonia and Aragon. The coast of Málaga lost upwards of 50,000 people. In Seville quarantine measures were evaded, ignored, unproposed and/or unenforced. Unsurprisingly the result was horrific. The city of Seville and its rural districts were thought to have lost 150,000 people—starting with a total population of 600,000. Sevilla, and indeed the economy of Andalucía, would never recover from so complete a devastation. Altogether Spain was thought to have lost 500,000 people, out of a population of slightly fewer than 10,000,000, or nearly 5% of its entire population. In perspective, it would be akin to a nation with a population of 300 million to losing upwards of 15 million men, women and children. This was the greatest, but not the only, plague of 17th century Spain.

Not quite twenty-five years later Spain found itself once again in the grips of a furious plague. For nine years (1676–1685), ebbing and flowing like a great wave, it ravaged all Spain. It struck with especial virulence in the areas of Andalucía and Valencia. The poor harvest of 1682-83 brought with it famine conditions which weakened the exhausted population still further. This last plague of the 17th century, plus the famine that followed in its wake, is estimated to have claimed an additional 250,000 lives.

Three great plagues ravaged Spain in the 17th century. They were:

  • The Plague of 1596-1602 (Believed to have arrived by ship from northern Europe at Santander, spreading south through the centre of Castile to Madrid by 1599 and to Seville by around 1600)
  • The Plague of 1646-1652 ("The Great Plague of Seville"; believed to have arrived by ship from Algeria, primarily afflicted hinterlands along the Mediterranean coast, spreading by coastal shipping, as far north as Barcelona.)
  • The Plague of 1676-1685

Factoring in normal births, deaths, plus emigration, historians reckon the total cost in human lives due to these plagues throughout Spain, throughout the entire 17th century, to be a minimum of nearly 1.25 million. As a result, the population numbers of Spain scarcely budged between the years 1596 and 1696.[1]

The disease is generally believed to have been bubonic plague, an infection by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, transmitted via a rat vector. Other symptom patterns of the bubonic plague, such as septicemic plague and pneumonic plague were also present.


Pakhare, Jayashree. "Black Death - the Black Plague." Buzzle.Com. 16 Sept. 2007. 15 Feb. 2008 <>.

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