HIST-H213 200-level survey course

Spring 2020: The Black Death

Course Calendar


Why “Plague”? (Introduction)

What is Black Death

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

Date: Jan 14


Pandemics and Epidemics

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

Date: Jan 16


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

The First Pandemic?

Read: The Secret History, 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 21


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 23


Plague and War from Prokopios

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

Date: Jan 28


Plague and Punishment

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

Date: Jan 30


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: Feb 4


Plague and Empresses

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

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

Date: Feb 6


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 11


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 13


DUE: Justinianic Individual Reflection

This reflection is in two parts:

  • The first part is a survey (20 short questions, ~5 minutes) that asks you to quickly evaluate your own behaviors in class. Be honest. This is designed to help you balance your expectations of your peers in light of your own work in class.
  • The second part should be prepared using the guidelines in the Individual Reflection Description EXCEPT that you’ll only need to review one other team’s project (see below). Your reflection can be uploaded as a Word doc or similar. We’ve selected another team with similar interests for you to peer review; you can view projects for the whole class in our BOX folder:
    • Teams 1 & 8
    • Teams 4 & 15
    • Teams 9 & 12
    • Teams 2 & 7
    • Teams 13 & 16
    • Teams 10 & 11
    • Teams 5 & 14
    • Teams 3 & 6

Date: Feb 17


The Black Death (Medieval Eurasia)

The Origins of the Black Death

Read Aberth:

  • Part One (Introduction)
  • Part Two (The Documents)
    • Section 1, Geographic Origins
    • Section 2, Symptoms and Transmission

Date: Feb 18


The Spread of Miasma

Read Aberth, Part 3 (Medical Responses)

Date: Feb 20


Famine and Plague

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

Date: Feb 25


Plague and the Economy

Read Aberth, Part 4 (Societal and Economic Impact)

Date: Feb 27


Belief and the Black Death

Read Aberth, Part 5 (Religious Mentalities).

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

Date: Mar 3


Cathedrals and Cadavers

Reading TBA

Date: Mar 5


Blame and Suspicion

Read Aberth, Part 6 (The Psyche of Hysteria), paying close attention to how us-versus-other develops or is negated in each source.

  1. Get a background on the Flagellants and pogroms
  1. Watch the refining-a-thesis-statement guide and prep for today’s attendance quiz.
  1. Work with your team remotely to:
    1. Document a workflow for Spring Break preparation of Unit 2.
    2. Refine your team’s thesis statement
    3. Document that work flow, give me a little information about what you expect at home, and get your attendance verified for March 10 by taking the Online Learning Environment Survey between 2:30 and 4:30 March 10.

Date: Mar 10


Saints and Skeletons

Read Slack, Chapter 6; Read Aberth, Part 7, The Artistic Response.

How do we think about the art in Aberth (Tomb at Canterbury Cathedral, A Disputatcion betwyx the Body and Wormes) as historical sources? How do we “close-read” these?

Date: Mar 12


Week 11 Gerbils and Germ Warfare

  1. Watch our H213 mini-lecture and keep this page open. The video will prompt you to come back to this assignment and use the links here.


(Direct link to video or to Week 11 Gerbils and Germ Warfare.pdf)

  1. Compare the tone and presentation of two different sources on plague
    1. Read 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.).
    2. Read 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).
  2. Work with your team this week to get your 1348 Plague Group Project in submission shape.
  3. Prep for your first Public History in a Pandemic submission. This week’s is easy (and there’s a video to go with it if you need it).

Notes from Tuesday’s Zoom Chat:

Date: Apr 3


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: Apr 3


Religious Rifts (early-modern Europe)

Week 12: The In-Between (Plague, Pepys and Pathogens)

  1. Watch our H213 mini-lecture on Plague and Samuel Pepys (15 minutes)


(You can also get a direct link to the video or download the Week 12 The Early Modern In Between.pdf)

  1. Spend 10 minutes at https://goldin.shinyapps.io/Search_Pepys/
    1. Search for “plague”
    2. Get a sense of 1665-6 plague geography by looking at the places that show up in the “Term in Context”tab
    3. Get a sense of the 1665-6 plague chronology by looking at the patterns in the “Histogram” tool
  2. Read selected entries from Samuel Pepys’ diary (30 minutes)
    1. Entries from 1665 only: http://www.pepys.info/1665/plague.html
    2. Pepys mixes French, Italian, and Latin into the entries he doesn’t want his wife to read. Have a look at http://www.pepys.info/bits2.html and read:
      • January 16, 1664 (gives you a better sense of who Pepys is)
      • August 22, 1665 (think about this in date order with the entries from 1665 in item 3.1)
      • October 5, 1665 (think about this in date order with the entries from 1665 in item 3.1)
  3. With your team in a BOX note labeled “2020-04-10 Pepys” ( 35-40 minutes):
    • Which three of Pepys’ entries could best be used as evidence to support your thesis from Team Project 2?
    • Find 2 striking/standout moments in Peyps that do not work well with your thesis from Team Project 2
  4. Do your Week 12 Public History in a Pandemic Submission (10-15 minutes)

Date: Apr 10


Plague and Fire (20th-century Hawaii)

Week 13: “Hawaiian” Paradise and Cultural Intersections

Edited after reading your Week 12 responses to add:

This week looks a little long. It’s not.

This week also looks like it’s individual work that won’t help you connect with your group. It will hopefully be the opposite.

Our task this week is broken into pieces to help distribute the note-taking for our final reading–James C. Mohr’s monograph on Plague and Fire, when plague hits Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1899–among the entire class and to give you a way to connect the details of the reading with the conversations you have in your group. That happens in three ways:

  • Your 2 pages of reading will combine with the entire class to give you access to a set of notes that cover the entirety of Plague and Fire, which will help you as you read for the rest of the semester.
  • Your 2 pages will combine with the other people in your team so that your joint knowledge is spread across the monograph and you can help each other without needing to communicate in real time (though that will help)
  • This activity will be the only major activity we do from now until the end of the semester, and it will replace our whiteboard-quadrant argument building activity as you and your team organize your argument for Project 3

Before Tuesday (April 14)

  1. Watch our H213 mini-lecture on Hawaii Before Plague ( 12 minutes)


(You can also get a direct link to the video or Week 13 Hawaiian Paradise and Cultural Intersections.pdf)

  1. Watch a tutorial on how to use Net.Create


(You can also get a direct link to the video or Week 13 Intro To Networks.pdf)

  1. Check your email to get your Net.Create link, and enter the nodes and edges for your assigned 2 pages of Plague and Fire (15-20 minutes). If you don’t have a good internet connection at home, you can load the network in uneditable form on a laptop or tablet and it will stay open (though you won’t be able to edit it) at https://dighist.indiana.edu/networks/?dataset=2020_PlagueAndFire#/.

Throughout the week

Read Mohr, Plague and Fire: Prologue, Chapters 1-3, coming back to the Net.Create network to check in on new names, places, etc., as necessary.

Friday (April 17)

  1. Come back to the Net.Create network and have a look at the relationships and interactions you and your classmates observed in Plague and Fire and in the Net.Create version of Plague and Fire
  2. Jot down a few of the relationships and interactions that stand out to you. Who do you think will be important? How much will the interactions you see here bear out as you keep reading Plague and Fire? Save these for when you do step 3.
  3. Submit Week 13 Public History in a Pandemic.

Date: Apr 17


Week 14: The Culture of Public Health Policy

Throughout the Week

  1. Watch our H213 mini-lecture on Lessons in Public Health Policy (18 minutes)


(You can also get a direct link to the video or Week 14 Lessons in Public Health.pdf)

  1. Check your email to get your Net.Create link, and revise the nodes and edges for your assigned 2 pages of Plague and Fire (10-15 minutes)
  2. Read Mohr, Plague and Fire: Chapters 4-8. Use the Net.Create network to help guide your reading by:
    • Using the “Label” sort feature in the nodes table to find people, places and things
    • Using the “Citation” sort feature in the Edge table to sort by page number
  3. Prep for our final Team Project (this replaces our whiteboard quadrant activity, since that will be harder to do remotely)
    • Use Week 14 Lessons in Public Health.pdf and this 1-minute video guide to networks in historical analysis to help you use the network to get a better understanding of the primary historical factors (social, political, cultural, etc.) in Plague and Fire
    • Think about the thesis statements you and your team have worked with in Projects 1 and 2. Do a rough estimate of how many edges fit into those thesis statements and which edges fit best.
    • Collect those rough estimates and the best edges from our Net.Create network and paste them into a BOX note in your Team BOX folder. Your team will use these in next week’s final-project planning.
  4. Submit Week 14 Public History in a Pandemic Submission.

Why network revisions?

How do the revisions work?

  1. Sort the Edges table by “citation” so you can see what’s been entered for your pages in this week’s excerpt.
  2. Use what’s there and what you read in your excerpt to fill in the gaps.

Why will this revision process help the final team project?

  • First, you’re learning how historians talk to each other by revising how we collectively understand a source. That process of historiography is a key skill in the world of history writing.
  • Second, next week, you and your team will have your very own version of the full network to work with. You’ll be able to define your own factors—categories—and assign them to the edge interactions that you think were the most important in defining the plague response in Plague and Fire and sort the edges by those categories.

This should help you as you write, because you then have access to the significance notes already in the network and won’t need to write your project from scratch. You do need to cite the network as one of your sources when you borrow information, and we’ve made this easy by including a “Cite this node/edge” button in each node and edge that will give you a citation you can copy and paste.

Date: Apr 24


Week 15: The burning of Chinatown

Throughout the Week

  1. Watch our H213 mini-lecture on the burning of Chinatown and post-detention tensions (10 minutes on Hawaii, 6 minutes on Team Project 3 starting at 10:20)


(You can also get a direct link to the video or Week 14 Lessons in Public Health.pdf)

  1. Read Mohr, Plague and Fire: Chapters 9-13. Use the Net.Create network to help guide your reading by:
    • Using the “Label” sort feature in the nodes table to find people, places and things
    • Using the “Citation” sort feature in the Edge table to sort by page number
  2. Explore a Google Map of some of the key places in post-Chinatown-fire 1900 Honolulu: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1FOsYTsPvjPbXovlKjl7Zfb5S_Fk&usp=sharing
  3. Check your email to get your new team-only Net.Create link, and with your team:
    • Choose the most significant edge interactions in the network (to support a 2000-word project, that probably means addressing 25 or 30 different interactions).
    • Divide up the work and use your team’s Net.Create network with your personal link to categorize these interactions (political? religious?) in the new Category field.
    • Use the categorization information to help your team decide how you will answer our Project 3 question
    • At some point during the week, check your thesis statement with the instructional staff
  4. Submit Week 15 Public History in a Pandemic Submission

Date: May 1


Week 16 FINAL DUE: Plague and Fire Honolulu Group Project

This week:

  1. Watch One. Last. Video. ( 6 minutes)


With links to the Black Death WebinarCNN article

  1. One person in your group should submit your public-history exhibit for Honolulu Plague and Fire.
  2. Each person should submit out one last weekly pass/fail assigment, which is mostly peer review and reflection on the semester: Week 16 Final Project Peer Review
  3. Dance party? Candy? A run? You choose, but go do something that’s not homework.

Thank you for being part of H213 Spring 2020!!!

Final Project

The question: Based on the primary-source accounts James Mohr includes in Plague and Fire and on his own work as a historian, what single element was the most significant factor in the responses to the outbreak of plague in 1899 and 1900 Honolulu? Did another element play a secondary role in the responses to this outbreak of plague and how do these two factors relate?

Why we’re asking the question this way: As with the second team project, we’re asking you to focus your explanation of historical change and continuity on a primary factor and a secondary, related factor and explain how these two intertwine to explain response to the 1899-1900 Honolulu 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).

What you need to do next: The assignment description for Team Projects should guide you as you take your next steps. This will require you to differentiate between Mohr as a historian (a secondary source) and the primary sources to which he gives you access (quotes from newspapers, etc.). If you draw ideas from Slack, cite them, but you may not quote Slack as evidence for your argument.

How to use Net.Create to support your Team Project work by:

  1. Getting a quick draft together to meet the 2,000-word count
    • Copy and paste notes from the nodes and edges in Net.Create and start your draft there
    • Use the citation buttons in the node and edge listings to properly credit the original authors
  2. Getting a list of Historical-figure IDs
    • Pull a list of relevant nodes from Net.Create and use the node-citation feature to source your information
  3. Corroborating Net.Create info using primary sources and James Mohr’s secondary-source information from Plague and Fire
    • Use page numbers from the citation field in Net.Create to make this easier.