Tag Archives: historiography

The Black Death with Professor Abigail Agresta

We’re back here at the History Cafe!  (along with major epidemics…maybe I should not make to big a deal of that…)  But considering the current pandemic and sitting in my house on lock-down along with much of the rest of the world, it seemed like a good time to revisit one of the touchstone’s of epidemic disease: The Black Death.  The Black Death, as we discuss, is one of those medieval topics where our understanding has actually changed radically in just the last couple of decades.  For a decade or so, there was significant debate about the exact nature of the disease, its origin, and why it killed so many people in the fourteenth and subsequent centuries.  Recent archaeological and genetic evidence have answered some persistent questions while raising a host of others.  We now know more than ever about the genetic history of the bacteria and how the Black Death in Europe relates to outbreaks of plague all over the world.  However, we also have many new questions about the persistence of the plague in Europe, and the connections between genetic shifts and the virality and lethality of the disease.

My guest on the podcast is professor Abigail Agresta from George Washington University in DC.  I talked to her for a previous podcast (which is a pretty good one, if I do say so) on the anti-Jewish riots in Valencia and Spain more broadly in 1391.  So if you have not heard that podcast, go back and listen to it HERE.  We go through both the classic story of the Black Death, as well as what new research has to say about this fascinating history.

Oh, and since I’m trying to streamline this podcasting process, I will be posting the podcasts with food images as usual, but I won’t put in a nice description since it tended to just slow down posting…and really this podcast is about history, not food.  Hopefully no one is too disappointed by this.  E-mail me, though, if you want to know what the pictures are of (when it’s not obvious).

 

Bibliography or links mentioned in the episode:

In Our Time podcast (From a few years ago)

And Cambridge put together a whole list of podcasts on epidemics, plague and otherwise!  Lots of options.

And some reading:

Ellen Arnold’s guest blog post at “How did we get in this mess?”

And she tweets on many medieval things @EFArnold

The classic narrative:

Benedictow, Ole J.  The Black Death 1346-1353: The Complete History. Boydell and Brewer, 2004.

Attacks on the classic narrative:

Herlihy, David.  The Black Death and the Transformation of the WestHarvard University Press, 1997.

Cohen, Samuel Kline.  The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe. Oxford University Press, 2002.

The new understanding (and there is much more of this…e-mail me if you want):

Green, Monica, editor.  Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death; The Medieval Globe vol. 1 (2014).

This has several articles by authors we mention in addition to Monica Green’s own introduction which lays out many of the new directions in plague research.

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The Hedgehog and the Fox with Clare Gillis

lemon_tart_-_star5112This month (bi-month?  Something like that – I wish these happened
a little more frequently) I’m again talking with my friend, medievalist and journalist Clare Gillis.  In part in response to the topic popping up in the news from time to time, I figured we should have a conversation about Isaiah Berlin’s essay on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace titled The Hedgehog and the Fox.   Continue reading The Hedgehog and the Fox with Clare Gillis

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Islam, Pirenne, and Historiography with Clare Gillis

Welcome to 2016!Orange-Duck

I’ve been a bit delinquent with podcasts for a couple of months, but here, finally, is a new one.  This one was inspired a few months back by the youtube comment stream (crazy but true!) on a John Oliver Last Week Tonight clip: the “How is this still a thing?” on Columbus Day.  Don’t ask how I ended up reading that far into the comment stream…in general I’m a fan of John Oliver, but not an avid reader of youtube comments. Continue reading Islam, Pirenne, and Historiography with Clare Gillis

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Anti-Jewish Riots in Valencia, Spain, 1391 with Abigail Agresta

As a follow-up to last month’s shot about violence, this month I haveBamyas an interview with Abigail Agresta talking about a series of anti-Jewish riots that hit numerous cities in Spain in 1391, starting with Seville and spreading across most of Spain.  We focused mostly on the interpretations of one of the worst riots in the city of Valencia.  On the way, we talk quite a bit about how scholars think about anti-Jewish violence in the medieval period, what relationship that violence has to modern anti-semitism, and the changing character of Christianity’s relationship to Judaism. Continue reading Anti-Jewish Riots in Valencia, Spain, 1391 with Abigail Agresta

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History Cafe Shot – What do we mean by Violence in history?

This month on the History Cafe, we’re trying something new.  This isTurkish Coffee 4 - Tulip Cafe Brattleboro a relatively short podcast (10 minutes) that asks a question with a handful of examples.  It is in no way exhaustive, but hopefully sparks a fair amount of thought.  It is also an example (to me, anyway) of how history often plays out in its roll as an explainer of the world today.  The podcast is about historical violence – I ask the question: how do we argue that a certain ideology, religion, or group is violent?
Continue reading History Cafe Shot — What do we mean by Violence in history?

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The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba Spain

This is another live-in-Spain podcast, this time from the famous monumental mosque-cathedral in Cordoba.  Cordoba was an important Roman provincial town, a military outpost of the Visigoths, and for centuries one of the most important seats of Islamic culture in Spain until it was conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236.  The main Christian administration of Andalusia, the southern province on the Spanish peninsula, came to be in Sevilla, especially after Sevilla became the main port for communication Continue reading The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba Spain

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Couriers in Medieval Valencia

This month’s podcast is a double story.  The first narrative is about my recent research into high-speed couriers in the late-medieval period.  It turns out that the city of Valencia (as well as, probably, the king of Aragon and the king of Mallorca) had a group of runners specifically dedicated to transporting their official communication who could travel on foot at crazy speeds.  The fastest trip seemed to be from Valencia to Barcelona and back where the runners could move just shy of seventy miles per day for up to a week.  Imagine that – you could run from Boston to New York City and back in just under a week!  See if you know any friends that want to try that with you.  The second narrative is about how people “do” history.  What does it mean to do research, and how do we sometimes make new discoveries.  This topic is something I discovered quite by accident recently, so it provides a great example of how that happens – and hopefully why it’s kind of awesome. Continue reading Couriers in Medieval Valencia

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