HIST-H213 200-level survey course

Spring 2018: The Black Death

Course Calendar

Why “Plague”? (Introduction)

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

The Black Death (Medieval Eurasia)

Religious Rifts (early-modern Europe)

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 (which includes the following links)

Date: Jan 9, 2018


Pandemics and Epidemics

Read: Slack, Plague: A Very Short Introduction, “Introduction”, “Chapter 1” and “Chapter 2” (pp xv-xvi, 1-34)

Date: Jan 11, 2018


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

The First Pandemic?

Read: The Secret History,</em> ed. and trans. Anthony Kaldellis (Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2010).

To guide your reading, consider:

  • Scan pass of 5 minutes: Are there clear sections that suggest the start and end of a train of thought? Are there bold headers? Names that appear and disappear?
  • Close reading: What is Prokopios’ perspective on Justinian and Theodora? On plague? Why does he have these perspectives? What words, phrases or descriptions does he use that provide evidence of these perspectives?

Date: Jan 16, 2018


Plague and Empire

Reread Part I of Prokopios’ 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.

This time, take notes and use citations (page number, chapter number and section number–Prokopios, p 34, 6.22) in those notes.

Date: Jan 18, 2018


Plague and War from Prokopios

Excerpts from Prokopios, “The Wars” (Prokopios, Secret History, 163-180)

Date: Jan 23, 2018


Plague and Punishment

John of Ephesus (Pseudo Dionysius) on plague in the Byzantine Empire (on Canvas)

Date: Jan 25, 2018


Plague, War and Persia

Evagrius on the intersection of plague and the Persian War (between Chosroes and Justinian’s Byzantine armies).

Day 1 of in-class work on Team Project 1.

Date: Jan 30, 2018


Plague and Empresses

Excerpts from Prokopios, Secret History, Part II (on Canvas).

Day 2 of in-class work on Team Project 1.

Date: Feb 1, 2018


Plague and the “Fall of Rome”

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

Day 3 of in-class work on Team Project 1.

Date: Feb 6, 2018


DUE: Justinianic Plague Group Project

**The question: **What single element was the most significant factor in the responses to plague in Justinian’s reign from the authors of primary sources we have read?

Why we’re asking the question this way: Lots of factors contribute to historical change, to plague response, to responses to Justinian and Theodora’s reign, to the “fall” of Rome and the rise of a new Rome. However, this is your first time tackling a historical argument, so we’re asking you to focus on the one thing from the primary sources we have read that you think is the most significant, the most important. Use Paul Slack’s framework and our work on historical thinking as a guide (e.g., corroborating and contextualizing economic factors, cultural responses, social norms, artistic responses), but understand that sometimes these factors contribute to and are corollaries to another factor (e.g. you might find that economic responses are driven by social norms, so you can use economic evidence to support a social-norm argument).

What you need to do next: The assignment description for Team Projects should guide you as you take your next steps. Use all of the evidence available from all of the primary sources we’ve read thus far. If you draw ideas from Slack, cite them, but you may not quote Slack as evidence for your argument.

Date: Feb 8, 2018


DUE: Justinianic Individual Reflection

This reflection is in two parts and asks you to carefully evaluate two other team projects in addition to your own. For more guidance, look at the full Individual Reflection Description.

The first 750 words document your argumentative take on your team’s project. Focus on the following:

  • Were there elements of your project where you had a different interpretation of evidence or a different argument you would like to have made? How were yours different and why?
  • What elements of the historical arguments in the team projects you peer reviewed would you incorporate? Why? What did you disagree with?
  • What single element of the final version of your team project would you change? How would you change it and what evidence would you use to support it?

An additional 200-word discussion documents the practical contributions you made to your team’s project (which pieces you wrote, what evidence you provided from your notes, etc.)

Date: Feb 12, 2018


The Black Death (Medieval Eurasia)

The Origins of the Black Death

Read Aberth, 1-36.

Date: Feb 13, 2018


The Spread of Miasma

Close read Aberth, pp 37-66

Date: Feb 15, 2018


Famine and Plague

Read Slack, Plague A Very Short Introduction, Chapters 3-4.

Date: Feb 20, 2018


Plague and the Economy

Read Abert, 67-93.

Date: Feb 22, 2018


Belief and the Black Death

Read Aberth, 94-116.

Day 1 of in-class work on Team Project 2.

Date: Feb 27, 2018


Cathedrals and Cadavers

Explore the world of plague via several different simulated realities.

Date: Mar 1, 2018


Blame and Suspicion

Read Aberth, 117-159, paying close attention to how us-versus-other develops or is negated in each source.

Date: Mar 6, 2018


Saints and Skeletons

Read Slack, Chapter 6; Aberth, pp. 160-178. How do we think about the art on pp 173-177 as a historical source? How do we “close-read” it?

Date: Mar 8, 2018


Gerbils and Germ Warfare

  • Mark Wheelis, “Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa” in Emerging Infectious Diseases (Sept. 2002, Vol. 8 Issue 9), pp. 971-5 (File Wheelis–Biowarfare.pdf could not be included in the ePub document. Please see separate zip file for access.).
  • Jethro Mullen, “Plague blame game: Gerbils replace rats as prime suspects” on CNN (Feb. 25 2015) and watch accompanying video with Christiane Amanpour (on CNN.com).

Pay special attention to the tone and presentation of Wheelis’ “Commentary” section, 973-4 compare to the tone and presentation style of Mullen and Amanpour.

Date: Mar 20, 2018


DUE: 1348 Plague Group Project

**The question: **Based on the primary-source accounts we’ve read, what single element was the most significant factor in the responses to the Black Death outbreak of plague in the 1340s? Did another element play a secondary role in the responses to the Black Death and how do these two factors relate?

**Why we’re asking the question this way:</strong> As with the first group project, we’re asking you to focus your explanation of historical change and continuity. This time, though, the focus isn’t as narrow. You’ll choose a primary factor and a secondary, related factor and explain how these two intertwine to explain response to the 1348 Black Death outbreak of plague. Use Paul Slack’s framework as a guide (e.g., economic factors, cultural responses, social norms, artistic responses), and think about how these factors contribute to and are corollaries to another factor (e.g. you might find that economic responses are driven by social norms, so your argument might focus on economic evidence as a secondary factor to social norms that drive plague response). You must also use a minimum of 2 outside secondary sources** in addition to Slack. Use of these secondary sources is designed to help you develop a more sophisticated version of your own argument; secondary sources should not be quoted (cite and summarize, but use your own words!).

What you need to do next: The assignment description for Team Projects should guide you as you take your next steps. Draw on the primary sources from Aberth for your evidence. If you borrow ideas from Slack, cite them, but you may not directly quote Slack as evidence for your argument.

Date: Mar 22, 2018


DUE: 1348 Individual Reflection

This reflection is in two parts and asks you to carefully evaluate two other team projects in addition to your own. For more guidance, look at the full Individual Reflection Description. The first 750 words document your argumentative take on your team’s project. Focus on the following:

  • Were there elements of your project where you had a different interpretation of evidence or a different argument you would like to have made? How were yours different and why?
  • What elements of the historical arguments in the team projects you peer reviewed would you incorporate? Why? What did you disagree with?
  • What single element of the final version of your team project would you change? How would you change it and what evidence would you use to support it?

You should support these claims with evidence from primary and secondary sources. You must also use a minimum of 2 outside secondary sources.

An additional 200-word discussion documents the practical contributions you made to your team’s project (which pieces you wrote, what evidence you provided from your notes, etc.)

Date: Mar 23, 2018


Religious Rifts (early-modern Europe)

The In-Between: Plague and Samuel Pepys

Spend 10 minutes looking for “plague” in Samuel Pepys’ diary at https://goldin.shinyapps.io/Search_Pepys/ (both using the “Term in Context” and the “Histogram” tool.) Then read http://www.pepys.info/1665/plague.html and the entries for 1665 at http://www.pepys.info/bits2.html.

Date: Mar 27, 2018


The In-Between: Plague and Pesthouses

Read one section (will be assigned in class on Nov 7) of *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</em> (London: 1665) In Countway Library of Medicine*, Harvard University, http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.COUNT:1172081. Available File InfectedHousesEngland.pdf could not be included in the ePub document. Please see separate zip file for access. or online at Harvard University.

Date: Mar 29, 2018


Plague and Fire (20th-century Hawaii)

A Prelude to Hawaii

Biography of and letters from Alexandre Yersin (File YersinBioAndLetter.pdf could not be included in the ePub document. Please see separate zip file for access.)

Date: Apr 3, 2018


“Hawaiian” “Paradise”

Read James C. Mohr, Plague and Fire, prologue and Chapter 1.

Date: Apr 5, 2018


Intersections of Medicines and Cultures

Mohr, Plague and Fire, chapters 2-3.

Date: Apr 10, 2018


Lessons in Public Health Policy

Mohr, Plague and Fire, chapters 4-6.

Date: Apr 12, 2018


Public Health and Political Communities

Mohr, Plague and Fire, chapters 7-8.

Day 1 of in-class work on Team Project 3.

Date: Apr 17, 2018


Government-Sanctioned Fire

Mohr, Plague and Fire, chapters 9-11.

Date: Apr 19, 2018


Mopping Up

Mohr, Plague and Fire, chapters 13-14.

Date: Apr 24, 2018


Plague and Zombies (Plague in the now)

History, Memory and the Media

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: Apr 26, 2018


FINAL: Cumulative Group Project

The question: What single element was the most significant factor in the responses to the three plague pandemics we have studied this semester?

Why we’re asking the question this way: Our final assignment takes the narrow focus on causality from our first group project and expands it to cover a huge swath of history. The challenge for you is to find a unifying element in plague response and explain its significance. That might mean that while the single most significant element in plague is similar across the three pandemics, the resulting responses to that single element are very different in each of the three pandemics. This will require you to explain how one element might be consistent across three very different historical contexts, and how those historical contexts affect responses to that element.

What you need to do next: The assignment description for Team Projects should guide you as you take your next steps. Use all of the evidence available from all of the primary sources we’ve read thus far. If you draw ideas from Slack, cite them, but you may not quote Slack as evidence for your argument. Make sure you’ve remembered to cite your 6 outside sources (2 1348 secondary sources; 2 Hawaii secondary sources; 2 Hawaii primary sources), if your team chose to include them.

Date: May 3, 2018


DUE: Cumulative Individual Reflection

This reflection is in two parts and asks you to carefully evaluate two other team projects in addition to your own. For more guidance, look at the full [Individual Reflection Description</a>. Other projects are available in https://iu.app.box.com/files/0/f/13876254437/2016-12-12_Team_Project_3_FINAL](pages.html#individual-reflection-description)

The first 750 words document your argumentative take on your team’s project. Focus on the following:

  • Were there elements of your project where you had a different interpretation of evidence or a different argument you would like to have made? How were yours different and why?
  • What elements of the historical arguments in the team projects you peer reviewed would you incorporate? Why? What did you disagree with?
  • What single element of the final version of your team project would you change? How would you change it and what evidence would you use to support it?

An additional 200-word discussion documents the practical contributions you made to your team’s project (which pieces you wrote, what evidence you provided from your notes, etc.)

Date: May 4, 2018