‘Walking Corpses’: Life as a Leper in Medieval Eurasia

Medieval society was compelled to adapt to the presence of the chronically ill. Conventional narratives tell us that medieval lepers were pariahs who lived out their days as rejected invalids, rotting away in decrepit asylums, quarantined from society. Some of this is true. The disease became so common in Europe, however, that medieval society was[…]

Measles in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

The measles virus probably descended from the ancestors of the modern canine distemper and/or rinderpest viruses. By Dr. Louise CillersResearch FellowGreek, Latin, and Classical StudiesUniversity of the Free State Introduction Although no longer a formidable epidemic disease, measles is still responsible for up to 2 million deaths per annum – mainly among children in developing[…]

The Plague in Ancient Athens

The city-state of Sparta, and much of the eastern Mediterranean, was also struck by the disease. Introduction The Plague of Athens was a devastating epidemic that ravaged the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece in 430 B.C.E., during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.E.), when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach.[…]

Why Ancient Plague Didn’t Lead to Widespread Epidemics as in the Medieval Era and Beyond

People caught and died from plague long before it caused major epidemics like the Black Death in the middle ages. Introduction One of civilization’s most prolific killers shadowed humans for thousands of years without their knowledge. The bacteria Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, is thought to be responsible for up to 200 million deaths[…]

Medicine in the Middle Ages

In this period, there was no tradition of scientific medicine, and observations went hand in hand with spiritual and religious influences. By Dr. Rachel HajarCardiologyHamad Medical Corporation Introduction Superstition is the poison of the mind Joseph Lewis “The glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome” ended when Rome fell to Germanic tribes[…]

The Discovery of Infectious Diseases in 2,000-Year-Old Silk Road Feces

How a research team identified parasites in ‘hygiene sticks’ that travellers on the Silk Road effectively used as their toilet paper. Once travelled by famous historical figures such as Marco Polo and Genghis Khan, the Silk Road was a hugely important network of transport routes connecting eastern China with Central Asia, the Middle East and[…]

The Role of Smallpox in the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs 500 Years Ago

Hernán Cortés owed his conquest of the Aztecs to his expedition’s unknown, unseen secret weapon: the smallpox virus. Disease epidemics can set the course of human history. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have drawn attention to the dangers of measles. The Democratic Republic of Congo is fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola that has killed hundreds. Epidemics are[…]

The Ecology of Yellow Fever in Antebellum New Orleans

The spread of yellow fever was a result of complex ecological and demographic changes produced by the development of both plantations and metropolitan centers. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, yellow fever epidemics occurred with increased frequency in New Orleans in the late summer. The yellow fever virus is of West African origin,[…]

What Is Yellow Fever? Disease and Causation in Environmental History

Recent phylogenetic analyses suggest that the yellow fever virus is approximately 1,500 years old. In many environmental histories, diseases serve to make one of the field’s foundational claims: that nonhuman forces matter in the shaping of human events. But as environmental history has matured, its practitioners have recognized that diseases are entangled with the human-made[…]

Plagues of the Past

Many diseases have affected the outcomes of battles or the political leanings of a country, but few have had consequences on society that continue to be felt in the present age. The plague is one such disease and its most famous pandemic – the Black Death – has changed the history, culture, and science of[…]