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MAA Webinars


The Mother of All Pandemics: The State of Black Death Research in the Era of Covid-19
A Medieval Academy of America Webinar

Recorded 15 May 2020

Draft Map Showing the Spread of Plague Through Eurasia and Africa Between the 13th and 15th Centuries

Moderator: Winston Black (Independent Scholar) and Lori  Jones (Univ. of Ottawa)
Respondent: Monica Green (Independent Scholar)
Joris Roosen (Independent Scholar)

Seeta Chaganti (Univ. of California, Davis)
Gérard Chouin (William & Mary)
Matthew Gabriele (Virginia Tech)
Robert Hymes (Columbia Univ.)
Nükhet Varlik (Rutgers University)

Presentation slides (pdf): Click here.
Bibliography (will be regularly updated):

Prior to 2020, when most people heard the word "pandemic," they thought of the Black Death. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all newly aware of the severe consequences of pandemic events, it is necessary to lay a foundation for transhistorical dialogue about disease emergence, the role of the state in epidemic emergencies, and climate factors, among many other questions.

A fixture in history courses all over the world, from middle school to university, the Black Death is usually defined as the plague pandemic that struck western Eurasia and the Mediterranean region between 1346 and 1353. Estimates of mortality vary, but historians are agreed that those regions saw no less than 30-40% mortality; in some areas, it was even higher.

Yet research in the past decade has made clear that neither the geography nor the chronology of that definition is sufficient. If true, this means that we have also underestimated the total mortality of the event. What is now better understood as the Second Plague Pandemic likely began in the 13th century, not the 14th, and may have spread plague across much of both Eurasia and Africa. This was, in other words, a pandemic that by 1500 touched nearly half of the inhabited world. So far as we know right now, only the Americas, Australia, and Oceania were spared. Strains of the pathogen, Yersinia pestis, continued to cause outbreaks for several more centuries, and their descendants still persist around the world today.

This panel brings together leading researchers on the Second Plague Pandemic. We will discuss why work in genetics has transformed the kinds of questions that historians and researchers in allied fields (bioarchaeology, genetics, climate history, literary studies, and art history) can now ask about this pandemic. For many of these questions, we're still dealing only with hypotheses and fragmentary evidence. But the very fact that researchers from across these many disciplines now recognize the urgency of talking together signals that the field has made an important shift. Please join us for this important conversation as we seek to understand what the medieval epidemic can teach us about the causes of, societal response to, and economic recovery from COVID-19.

In and Beyond the Digital: Career Pathways for Humanists
A Medieval Academy Webinar

Recorded Wednesday, May 13, 2020

In this moment of global crisis, medievalists and all those who work in the humanities face a period of increased uncertainty about the environments in which they work and operate. The National Endowment for the Humanities is a federal agency dedicated to supporting humanistic endeavors across the nation. In this talk, Hannah Alpert-Abrams from the Office of Digital Humanities speaks about career pathways for humanists in and beyond the digital, and about the role of the humanities in uncertain times. Dr. Alpert-Abrams’ presentation is followed by a discussion period, moderated by the MAA’s Digital Humanities and Multimedia Committee. Although members of the MAA’s Graduate Student Association are the primary audience for the presentation, all were welcome.

Copyright ©2020 The Medieval Academy of America
Opinions expressed by members in print, video, or online represent their personal views, not necessarily those of the Medieval Academy of America.

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