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Gunnar Karlsson's Alternative Theory: That Historical Plague Was Pure Epidemics Of Primary Pneumonic Plague

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Chapter Summary

Gunnar Karlsson presented his alternative theory to the international community of scholars in a paper published in Journal of Medieval History in 1996 where he argues that two late medieval epidemics in Iceland and more generally that plague in medieval Europe were pure epidemics of primary pneumonic plague. Karlsson describes triumphantly that by having removed the black rat from the medieval plague he has more generally paved the way for asserting that the medieval plague epidemics in general, all over Europe, were primary pneumonic plague, presumably caused by that unknown mutated variant. According to Steffensen and Karlsson, the Icelandic epidemics were large-scale, sweeping away a large part or even most of the Icelandic population. A level of population mortality of 60 per cent constitutes certain proof that the Icelandic epidemics must have been a different disease or conjunction of diseases.

Keywords: Gunnar Karlsson's alternative theory; Icelandic epidemics; primary pneumonic plague; Steffensen



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