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The Medieval Globe


Medieval Egypt, Irrigation, Plague, Depopulation, Economic decline, Agrarian economy


Starting with the Black Death, and continuing over the century and a half that followed, plague depopulation brought about the ruin of Egypt’s irrigation system, the motor of its economy. For many generations, the Egyptians who survived the plague therefore faced a tragic new reality: a transformed landscape and way of life significantly worsened by plague, a situation very different from that of plague survivors in Europe. This article looks at the ways in which this transformation took place. It measures the scale and scope of rural depopulation and explains why it had such a significant impact on the agricultural infrastructure and economy.