Avoiding Plague like the Plague: Some Pathogenic Context for Late Antique Pandemics
Tim Newfield, Georgetown University, Washington
June 4, 2020 · 1:30 pm—3:00 pm · via Zoom
Program in Medieval Studies; Climate Change and History Research Initiative; Humanities Council
Pandemics in the Past: from Prehistory to (almost) the Present
Plague gets a lot of attention. It’s earned, but it’s important to keep in mind that no outbreak of Yersinia pestis, premodern or not, has ever occurred in a vacuum. In late antiquity and early modernity, plague occurred alongside a multitude of infectious diseases, both old and new. Crucially, the aggregate demographic toll (in either period) of those diseases, both endemic and epidemic, may have rivalled that of plague. This paper attempts to tease out some epidemiological context for first-pandemic plague. It focuses in particular on diseases resembling malaria and smallpox, and emphasizes the importance of collaborative multidisciplinarity when pursuing the premodern history of pathogenic disease.
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