The Black Death
The World's Most Devastating Plague

The Black Death - The World's Most Devastating Plague
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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Europe on the Brink of the Black Death
Begin to contemplate the enormity of the Black Death's impact on the medieval world. As context for the harrowing events to come, take account of the state of medieval society…
Episode 2 The Epidemiology of Plague
Explore the medical understanding of plague, as seen in the 6th-century Plague of Justinian, the Black Death of the 1300s, and the 19th-century Third Pandemic. Examine the three predominant varieties…
Episode 3 Did Plague Really Cause the Black Death?
In recent years, scholars have reassessed the causes of the Black Death, questioning how it spread through medieval Europe with such astonishing speed and virulence. Here, investigate additional factors that…
Episode 4 The Black Death’s Ports of Entry
Now examine the plague's first sustained appearance in Europe, at the Crimean trading port of Caffa. Learn about the Mongol siege of the city that preceded the outbreak, and how…
Episode 5 The First Wave Sweeps across Europe
Explore how the plague traveled by sea across the Mediterranean, invading port cities and then radiating inward. To get a view of the unfolding devastation, study the events in Sicily,…
Episode 6 The Black Death in Florence
Observe how Florence, the most advanced community in medieval Europe, dealt with the crippling effects of the plague. Learn about the extraordinary and diverse responses of citizens, and see how…
Episode 7 The Black Death in France
Witness the plague's horrific impact at Marseille, and uncover how citizens responded with unusual solidarity. Study the ravages and drastic measures taken at Bordeaux, and see how news of outbreaks…
Episode 8 The Black Death in Avignon
As the 14th-century seat of the papacy, Avignon presents an exceptional case. Learn about the lavish, hedonistic lifestyle of the papal court under Pope Clement VI, and review the range…
Episode 9 The Black Death in England
The plague ravaged England with stunning ferocity. Consider evidence of other possible disease agents that added to its effects, as well as factors in the environment that exacerbated the epidemic.…
Episode 10 The Black Death in Walsham
The village of Walsham provides a vivid view of how English society was upended by the plague. Learn about the manorial system, where peasants lived under a local lord and…
Episode 11 The Black Death in Scandinavia
The Black Death reached Scandinavian countries at different times, by different routes. Follow the plague's arrival by ship in Norway, then its movement into Sweden and Denmark, and observe how…
Episode 12 The End of the First Wave
Track the final stages of the plague's initial path through 14th-century Europe, from its incursion into Germanic lands to its devastation of Poland and Russia. Study the socioeconomic conditions within…
Episode 13 Medieval Theories about the Black Death
Observe how learned minds responded to the plague through the writing and dissemination of plague treatises. Review theories regarding the plague's appearance, from astrological conjunctions and weather to those of…
Episode 14 Cultural Reactions from Flagellation to Hedonism
Delve into the range of psychosocial responses people had to the plague and to the knowledge of its inescapability. Explore the flagellant movement, whose adherents tortured themselves publicly to atone…
Episode 15 Jewish Persecution during the Black Death
Examine the history of anti-Semitism in medieval Europe and the unfolding of conspiracy theories during the plague that Jews were poisoning the Christian population. Witness how anti-Semitic hysteria led to…
Episode 16 Plague’s Effects on the Medieval Church
The Black Death dealt serious blows to the institution of the Church. Learn how the plague's death toll among the clergy upset the hierarchy and management of religious affairs. Also…
Episode 17 Plague Saints and Popular Religion
Religious devotion at the popular level proliferated during the Black Death. Follow the dramatic increase in activities such as religious pilgrimage, the building of chantry chapels, and the veneration of…
Episode 18 Artistic Responses to the Black Death
Discover how artists confronted the plague through new and innovative forms of expression. Among these, study the creation of transi tombs with graphic sculptural effigies of the dead, as well…
Episode 19 Literary Reponses to the Black Death
The events of the Black Death inspired some of history's greatest literary masterpieces. In this lecture, uncover the range of textual responses to the plague, highlighting William Langland's dream-vision poem…
Episode 20 The Economics of the Black Death
Investigate how the plague initially brought massive loss of labor, administrative manpower, and the tax base, as well as far-reaching disruption of farming. Grasp the process by which economic opportunities…
Episode 21 The Black Death’s Political Outcomes
The social and economic changes brought by the plague were inextricably linked to the sphere of politics. Witness how numerous governmental functions dramatically broke down during the plague, and study…
Episode 22 Communities That Survived the First Wave
Despite the vast spread of the Black Death throughout the European continent, several communities were notably spared during the first wave of the 14th century. In the examples of Finland,…
Episode 23 Later Plague Outbreaks: 1353–1666
Chart subsequent occurrences of plague across Europe following the Black Death of the 14th century, culminating with the Great Plague of London of 1665-66. Learn how people developed critical strategies…
Episode 24 How the Black Death Transformed the World
In conclusion, reflect on how the economic, social, and political worlds of Europe reinvented themselves to accommodate the deep changes brought about by the plague. Finally, through examples ranging from…

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