HIST-H213 200-level survey course

Fall 2015: The Black Death

Course Meeting:

  • M/W, 11:15a-12:30 pm
  • Aug 24-Dec 14, 2015 
  • Swain East 105, Indiana University
  • HIST-H213 33316

Professor: Kalani Craig

Office Hours: W 2:15-3:15, BH 815 Email: craigkl@indiana.edu

  • Web site: www.kalanicraig.com
  • Twitter: @kalanicraig

Course Assistant: Daniel Story

Office Hours: T 2:30-3:30, BH 815 Email: djstory@indiana.edu

How would your life change if half of the people around you suddenly dropped dead?

The bubonic plague has forced people all over the world to answer this question, and the bacteria is still with us today. This class will explore how people react to crisis in their day-to-day life by looking at cultural artifacts (art, written sources, clothing, even medical theory) created during outbreaks of plague.

From the sixth-century medieval Mediterranean world to 19th century China, from Renaissance England to 20th century Hawaii, we’ll see how cultural similarities and differences shape plague response, and how these responses shape interactions between different cultures. From primary sources to modern research and big-data analysis, we’ll use a historian’s toolbox to explore the limits of what we can understand about the Black Death’s past.

Nota bene: This course takes advantage of participatory learning techniques. As such, readings in the syllabus after Sept 21 are subject to change, as the instructional staff responds to your needs, requests and progress. Dates for short papers 1 and 2 will not change.

Accounts and passwords: We have a course account for both Google and Dropbox. The username and password is the same for both.

Practical Details

Course Calendar

Why “Plague”? (Introduction)

Plague and the End of Antiquity? (#Late Antique Mediterranean)

Imagining Plague

The Black Death (#Medieval Eurasia)

Religious Rifts (#early-modern Europe)

Dueling Microscopes (#19th-century East Asia)

Plague and Fire (#20th-century Hawaii)

Plague and Zombies (#Plague in the now)


Why “Plague”? (Introduction)

What is Black Death

To read (after class): The Syllabus (in the following links)

Date: Aug 24, 2015 at 12am


Pandemics and Epidemics

Skim: Slack, Plague: A Very Short Introduction, “Introduction”, “Chapter 1” and “Chapter 2” (pp xv-xvi, 1-34) Close read: Above, pp 11 (begin with “Although”) to 16. Map post: In the “Discussions” link in Canvas, look for the “Plague At Home” discussion. Use Canvas’ Google Map option (the red pin) to embed a map of your home town. Below the map, include the distance in miles from a recent case of bubonic plague (in the last 10 years), along with the URL of the news story/Web site where you found that case documented.

Date: Aug 26, 2015 at 12am


Plague and the End of Antiquity? (Late Antique Mediterranean)

The First Pandemic?

Skim: Prokopios, The Secret History, ed. and trans. Anthony Kaldellis (Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2010, Prokopios The Secret History.docx). To guide your skim, consider:

  • Scan pass: Where do the sections start and end? Are there bold headers? Names that appear and disappear?
  • Skim pass: What is Prokopios’ perspective on Justinian and Theodora? On plague? Why does he have these perspectives? Do the answers to these questions match up to the sections that you established in the Scan pass?
  • To help you choose pages for close reading for the next class session: How does his perspective on Justinian and Theodora in the second half of the reading help inform our understanding of his perspective on plague? Date: Aug 31, 2015 at 12am

Plague and Empire

Close read 4-5 pages of Prokopios, The Secret History.

Focus on specific moments in Prokopios that help you understand why Prokopios characterizes Justinian and Theodora the way he does, and on specific personal responses Prokopios has to the appearance of plague. Think about whether there are connections between these two things.

Make sure you take notes and use citations in those notes so you have the appropriate information you need for your first mapping post.

Date: Sep 2, 2015 at 12am


Plague and War

Skim and close read Evagrius on the intersection of plague and the Persian War (between Chosroes and Justinian’s Byzantine armies) Evagrius section 29.pdf.

Date: Sep 9, 2015 at 12am


Plague and the “Fall of Rome”

Read: Gregory of Tours, 10 Books of History excerpt about the plague in Western Europe in 543 (Gregory of Tours 10 Books of History.docx)

Date: Sep 14, 2015 at 12am


Imagining Plague

What If? A Plague Simulation, Part I

Skim: Aberth, The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350, pp 15-22, 29-36

Close read: By instructors (in the class session preceding this, you will be assigned one of the several primary sources, and your close read will focus on it.)

If you have a laptop and are willing to download new software, please download NetLogo (from Northwestern, available at https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/) and make sure you can open it on your laptop.

Date: Sep 16, 2015 at 12am


What If? A Plague Simulation, Part II

Skim: Aberth, The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350, pp 41-66

Close read: TBA. In the class session preceding this, you will be assigned one of the several primary sources we skimmed, and your close read will focus on it.

If you have a laptop and are willing to download new software, please download NetLogo (from Northwestern, available at https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/) and make sure you can open it on your laptop.

Date: Sep 21, 2015 at 12am


Religious Rifts (early-modern Europe)

Renaissance and Reformation

No assigned reading from our textbooks. Instead, you will read a draft of a peer’s short paper.

Date: Oct 14, 2015 at 12am


Short Paper 1

This 4-5 page paper (1100-1300 words) should contain a statement of argument that is interpretive (i.e. a statement that requires you to provide your opinion of a historical phenomenon) and evidence that supports your interpretive thesis statement.

The paper prompt, and guidelines on how to break the prompt down, are in Short Paper 1 Prompt.pptx

A variation that revises the rules to Rattus Cartus is available, but please ask one of the instructional staff for help before you start down this path.

Date: Oct 16, 2015 at 12am


English Economies

Skim: The Shutting Up Infected Houses as It Is Practised in England Soberly Debated: By Way of Address from the Poor Souls That Are Visited, to Their Brethren That Are Free: With Observations on the Wayes Whereby the Present Infection Hath Spread: As Also a Certain Method of Diet, Attendance, Lodging and Physick, Experimented in the Recovery of Many Sick Persons (London: 1665) In Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University, at Harvard University.

Date: Oct 19, 2015 at 12am


English Experiences

Close read 2-3 pages from The Shutting Up Infected Houses. As you choose which sections to close read, consider whether the author is advocating for the practice of shutting plague victims into their houses, and why the author advocates for or against this practice. Are the reasons economic? Practical? Medical? Social or cultural? Religious?

Date: Oct 21, 2015 at 12am


Italian Economies

Skim John Howard on Venice’s Lazaretto (HowardLazaretto.pdf on Canvas). Also consider the following entry from Howard’s travelogue as he returns from Italy to France:

1769, Nov 26. Having bought an Italian Almanac, I counted the Holydays in Italy, and they amount to 80, which, with Titular Saints, 3 more, make 83, of which 52 are Sabbath days, so remain 31. O! how is pure religion debased in these countries, who despise and hate all others who differ from them; preventing on many days providing for a family by work, either in town or country, and allowing every species of wickedness at little Cabarets, on Sabbath days–how different from the primitive sacred Sabbath! When men leave the holy word, and set up their own inventions, God often leaves them–then how low do they fall! Blessed be God, who has called us Protestants out of darkness into his marvellous light–make me more sensible, more thankful, oh my God! How much reason have I to bless God for the Reformation: how is religion debased into show and ceremony here in Italy. What curtsys, bowing, and ceremonies to the sound of music, have I seen at Turin: how is a sacred Sabbath called a Feast-day, not for holy, but unholy things–Operas–Ballad singing–Concerts–138 lights at the altar for a feast of St. Anthony–what dressing and undressing of the Archbishop–what parade before the Cardinal at Milan! My soul, enter thou not into their secret. 20 Saints-days near together at Christmas–poor creatures prevented getting their daily bread, thousands idling and miserable in the streets–”

The 1831 editor of Howard’s biography says the following about his stay (p 49):

Whilst he continued in Italy, his generous heart was deeply grieved at witnessing the luxury, the profligacy, and the gross superstition of the inhabitants of one of the loveliest regions of the earth. He left them, therefore, we may well supposed, without much regret; and re-crossing the Alps, returned to Geneva, on his way to France. He spent about ten days in Paris, which he characterizes as ‘the dirty city.’ From Paris he proceeded to Holland….

(From Memoirs of Howard, Compiled from His Diary, His Confidential Letters, and Other Authentic Documents Page 47)

Date: Oct 26, 2015 at 12am


Italian Experiences

Close read Howard on Lazarettos. Consider Howard’s English origin as you read about Italian plague practices (see Italian Economies for additional descriptions from Howard of Italy and France)

Date: Oct 28, 2015 at 12am


Dueling Microscopes (19th-century East Asia)

“Modern” Medicine

Date: Nov 2, 2015 at 12am


Kitasato and Yersin

Skim Chapter 6, “Promises and Perils of Encounters: Influences of German Medicine in Japan” in Hoi-Eun Kim, Doctors of Empire: Medical and Cultural Encounters between Imperial Germany and Meiji Japan (Toronto; University of Toronto Press, 2014). (in Canvas, Kim–DoctorsOfEmpire.pdf)

Close read the section entitled “Japan’s Pettenkofer vs. Japan’s Koch” (126-136), paying close attention to Pettenkofer’s compromise between contagion theory and miasmic theory and Aoyama’s assessment of Kitasato’s plague-bacillus discovery.

Date: Nov 4, 2015 at 12am


Yersinia Pestis

Skim biography of and letters from Alexandre Yersin (YersinBioAndLetter.pdf on Canvas). Close read the letters.

Date: Nov 9, 2015 at 12am


Plague and Fire (20th-century Hawaii)

Plague and Urban Planning

Skim Mohr, Plague and Fire, pp 1-53.

Date: Nov 11, 2015 at 12am


“Hawaiian” “Paradise”

Skim Mohr, Plague and Fire, 55-98, tracking the ethnic populations that live in close quarters in Honolulu.

Close read 10-15 pages of Mohr, Plague and Fire, pp 1-53, looking at the interactions between the Republic of Hawaii and its citizens. Do the ethnic divisions in these chapters mirror those in pp 55-98? What’s missing or more present?

Date: Nov 16, 2015 at 12am


Intersections of Medicines and Cultures

Skim Mohr, Plague and Fire, pp 99-124. Close read pp 99-110.

Date: Nov 18, 2015 at 12am


Lessons in Public Health Policy

Skim Mohr, Plague and Fire, 111-203.

Date: Nov 30, 2015 at 12am


Government-Sanctioned Fire

Close read 15-20 pages of Mohr, Plague and Fire, that focus on the specific population group you’ve been assigned.

Date: Dec 2, 2015 at 12am ___

Plague and Zombies (Plague in the now)

History, Memory and the Media

Skim and close-read: Slack, Chapter 7.

Do an internet search for “plague and zombies”. Read 2 or 3 articles that catch your eye and consider what ”plague” does in the modern media. How do the concerns of the present reshape how we see the past? What do we do with articles like http://news.yahoo.com/frankenvirus-emerges-siberias-frozen-wasteland-142859117.html ?

Date: Dec 7, 2015 at 12am


Modern Medicinal Parallels

No assigned reading from our textbooks. Instead, you will read a draft of a peer’s short paper.

Date: Dec 9, 2015 at 12am


Short Paper 2

This 4-5 page paper (1100-1300 words) should contain a statement of argument that is interpretive (i.e. a statement that requires you to provide your opinion of a historical phenomenon) and evidence that supports your interpretive thesis statement.

Prompt:

What single historical phenomenon most affects changes to scientific/medical practices centered on plague?

  • Focus on non-medical and non-scientific phenomenon, including but not limited to:
    • imperialism
    • colonialism
    • cultural practices
    • religious beliefs
    • social practices
    • economic structures
    • political systems
  • Remember that one phenomenon can be made to support arguments for another.
  • Use primary sources, not secondary analysis (i.e. don’t quote James Mohr; find his sources)

Date: Dec 17, 2015 at 12am