A comet depicted in medieval times in the Bayeux tapestry.
In medieval times natural phenomena, such as comets and eclipses, were regarded as portents of natural disasters, including plagues.
Dead men do tell tales through their physical remains.
AP Photo/Francesco Bellini
People have lived with infectious disease throughout the millennia, with culture and biology influencing each other. Archaeologists decode the stories told by bones and what accompanies them.
Chaucer commended those who followed their societal roles and condemned those who didn’t.
Poets and the wealthy were angered by those who saw their opportunity to rise above their station after the plague.
Toggenburg Bible / Wikipedia
PODCAST: Between a third and half of Europe's population died from the Black Death. The first episode of a new podcast series from The Anthill on how the world recovered from past shocks.
The Triumph of Death, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562.
A medieval historian and business studies expert discuss how pandemics past and present impact on big business.
Hippocrates refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes. Engraving by Raphael Massard, 1816.
Bleach to defeat COVID-19 or fire to dispel plague, history is full of quack medicine.
Cushing/Whitney Medical Library
Some 1,500 years ago, the Plague of Justinian spread via ships from North Africa to Europe and Asia, killing up to 50 million people.
The squares of medieval European cities bore witness to the reopening of economies after plagues.
The cities of Europe have experienced disease outbreaks for centuries, but they were able to bounce back using quarantine, economic stimulus and patience. Not all were successful.
There were eerie similarities between Pepys’ time and our own.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Sure, there were no Zoom calls or ventilators. But thanks to a prolific diarist, we can see some striking similarities, from daily death counts to quack remedies.
Franz Xavier Winterhalter’s ‘The Decameron’ (1837).
Heritage Images via Getty Images
Then – as now – the wealthy fled to the countryside, while the urban poor were forced to work on the front lines.
The people of Tournai bury victims of the Black Death.
Pierart dou Tielt (c1353)
Rumours, conspiracy theories, the blame game: sound familiar?
The Black Death inspired medieval writers to document their era of plague. Their anxieties and fears are starkly reminiscent of our own even if their solutions differ.
During the Black Death of the 1300s, medieval writers struggled to make sense of the disease just as we are now during the COVID-19 pandemic
Past disease outbreaks improved the way we lived. If governments are smart, COVID-19 could do the same.
Historically, pandemics have brought about profound societal improvements. Will that happen this time?
A 1411 depiction of a man and woman suffering with bubonic plague, or “Black Death”.
Everett Historical/ Shutterstock
Misinformation and "fake news" was also widespread during the Black Death.
Miniature by Pierart dou Tielt
A look back at history can help us consider the economic effects of public health emergencies and how best to manage them.
What happened to make plague able to cause devastating epidemics, as in this depiction from 1349?
Pierart dou Tielt/Wikimedia
People caught and died from plague long before it caused major epidemics like the Black Death in the middle ages. Could what scientists call cultural resistance be what kept the disease under control?
The Bubonic plague slowed urbanisation, industrial development and economic growth in Europe for many years.
Despite being so small they can't be seen with the naked eye, pathogens that cause human disease have greatly affected the way humans live for centuries.
It’s the ability of our immune system to remember past infections, and pass this memory on to our kids, that allows us to survive infectious diseases.
With so many microbes capable of hijacking and destroying us, how are we, as a species, still enduring?
Yersinia pestis bacteria start to target the lungs and become so deadly?
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
It's a deadly bacterium that can spread like wildfire. New research suggests Yersinia pestis first developed its ability to cause lung infection and then evolved to be highly infectious.
At least we won’t have to queue at the job centre when this is over.
The plague known as the Black Death which tore through 14th century Europe is traditionally held to have had at least one upside. Women, the theory runs, were able to exploit the labour shortages of post-plague…