TMG 1 (2014)

Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death

This issue of The Medieval Globe is published with the support of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh
About the Editors:
Monica H. Green (Arizona State University) spec­ializes in the global history of health and medieval European history. She has published widely on medieval medicine.
Carol Symes is the founding executive editor of The Medieval Globe. She is the Lynn M. Martin Professorial Scholar at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is associate pro­fessor of history, theatre, and medieval studies.
more about The Medieval Globe.
Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death

Edited by Monica H. GreenThe plague organism (Yersinia pestis) killed an estimated 40% to 60% of all people when it spread rapidly through the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe in the fourteenth century: an event known as the Black Death. Previous research has shown, especially for Western Europe, how population losses then led to structural economic, political, and social changes. But why and how did the pandemic happen in the first place? When and where did it begin? How was it sustained? What was its full geographic extent? And when did it really end? Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World is the first book to synthesize the new evidence and research methods that are providing fresh answers to these crucial questions. It was only in 2011, thanks to ancient DNA recovered from remains unearthed in London’s East Smithfield cemetery, that the full genome of the plague pathogen was identified. This single-celled organism probably originated 3000-4000 years ago and has caused three pandemics in recorded history: the Justinianic (or First) Plague Pandemic, around 541-750; the Black Death (Second Plague Pandemic), conventionally dated to the 1340s; and the Third Plague Pandemic, usually dated from around 1894 to the 1930s. This ground-breaking book brings together scholars from the humanities and social and physical sci­ences to address the question of how recent work in genetics, zoology, and epi­de­miology can enable a rethinking of the Black Death’s global reach and its larger historical significance. It forms the inaugural double issue of The Medieval Globe, a new journal sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Carol Symes, Introducing The Medieval Globe

Monica H. Green, Editor’s Introduction to Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World

Monica H. Green, Taking “Pandemic” Seriously: Making the Black Death Global

Anna Colet, Josep Xavier Muntané i Santiveri, Jordi Ruíz Ventura, Oriol Saula, M. Eulàlia Subirà de Galdàcano, and Clara Jauregui, The Black Death and Its Consequences for the Jewish Community in Tàrrega: Lessons from History and Archeology

Sharon N. DeWitte, The Anthropology of Plague: Insights from Bioarcheological Analyses of Epidemic Cemeteries

Stuart Borsch, Plague Depopulation and Irrigation Decay in Medieval Egypt

Ann G. Carmichael, Plague Persistence in Western Europe: A Hypothesis

Nükhet Varlık, New Science and Old Sources: Why the Ottoman Experience of Plague Matters

Fabian Crespo and Matthew B. Lawrenz, Heterogeneous Immunological Landscapes and Medieval Plague: An Invitation to a New Dialogue between Historians and Immunologists

Michelle Ziegler, The Black Death and the Future of the Plague

Robert Hymes, Epilogue: A Hypothesis on the East Asian Beginnings of the Yersinia pestis Polytomy

Featured Source
Monica H. Green, Kathleen Walker-Meikle, and Wolfgang P. Müller, Diagnosis of a “Plague” Image: A Digital Cautionary Tale

Available January 2015 | Hardback
156 × 234 mm | 6.14 × 9.21″
approx. viii, 326 pages, 3 col. plates, 15 figures, 19 line art
ISBN 978-1-942401-00-1
US$ 99.00 | €79.00 |  £64.00 postage & packing as specified by distribution partners
e-ISBN 978-1-942401-01-8
ISSN: applied for
Imprint: Arc Medieval Press
Language: English
BISAC Subject Codes:
HISTORY / Medieval
HISTORY / Asia / GeneralHIS026000
HISTORY / Middle East / General
MEDICAL / DiseasesMED022090
MEDICAL / Infectious Diseases
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Available in immediate open access digital format thanks to the generous support of the World History Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

November 2014: ONLINE NOW

This ground-breaking inaugural double issue of The Medieval Globe, also available as a book, brings together scholars from the humanities and social and physical sciences to address the question of how recent work in the genetics, zoology, and epidemiology of plague’s causative organism (Yersinia pestis) can allow a rethinking of the Black Death pandemic and its larger historical significance.

Watch the video of The Black Death and Beyond: New Research at the Intersection of Science and the Humanities a symposium devoted to the implications of this issue, sponsored by the University of Illinois.

  • The status of plague in the modern world and the relevance of historical research to contemporary concerns about emerging infectious diseases
  • New discoveries and analytical methods in archeology that foster more integrated comparison with documentary sources for plague’s effects – including new archeological evidence for the Black Death’s impact on a Jewish community in Catalonia
  • Investigation of the causes and consequences of plague persistence and the establishment of enzootic foci in Western Europe and the Ottoman world
  • The effects of long-term depopulation and changes in the immune profile of surviving populations
  • The implications of evolutionary genetics for postulating a much wider geographic extent of the late-medievalpandemic than hitherto imagined, and the benefits of “global health thinking” for expanding analysis even further
  • A hypothetical scenario for the origin of the Second Plague Pandemic in Central Asia
  • Correction of a misdiagnosed “plague” image and reflection on the natureof knowledge-production in a digital age.

Physician Lancing a Bubo: Chapel of Saint-Sébastien, Lanslevillard (France), late 15th c. (photo: Paul Smit)

TMG 1(2014) In the Media

edited by Monica H. Green