Malaria and malaria-like disease in the early Middle Ages

Malaria impairs human reproduction, augments excess mortality, and lowers productivity. It can exercise a debilitating effect so profound that it denes regions. The disease is an essential element in histories of places and periods in which it was endemic. Although many European regions are thought to have had a long association with malaria, evidence for the disease, the parasites that cause it, and the mosquitoes that transmit it, is thin before 1900. Malarias early medieval history is opaque. This paper clears up contours of malarias occurrence in Frankish Europe. It surveys sources  relevant to its study and establishes guidelines for retrospectively diagnosing the disease. It argues that malaria was plentiful north of the Alps before 1000 and that it inuenced demographic trends where it was endemic.“

Timothy P. Newfield (2017), Malaria and malaria-like disease in the early Middle Ages, Early Medieval Europe, Volume 25, 3, 251–300.


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The Great Plague of Marseille

„Professor Cindy Ermus, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Lethbridge, explaining the Plague of Marseille in terms of the (relatively) new field of Disaster History.“

The AskHistorians Podcast

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A History of Philosophy without Any Gaps

An interview with Monica Green reveals parallels between medicine and philosophy in the middle ages.

Podcast available on:


Monica H. Green is Professor at the Arizone State University and historian of medicine and health.

Her publications and Bio:



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Model-based analysis of an outbreak of bubonic plague in Cairo in 1801

 Abstract: „Bubonic plague has caused three deadly pandemics in human history: from the mid-sixth to mid-eighth century, from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-eighteenth century and from the end of the nineteenth until the mid-twentieth century. Between the second and the third pandemics, plague was causing sporadic outbreaks in only a few countries in the Middle East, including Egypt. Little is known about this historical phase of plague, even though it represents the temporal, geographical and phylogenetic transition between the second and third pandemics. Here we analysed in detail an outbreak of plague that took place in Cairo in 1801, and for which epidemiological data are uniquely available thanks to the presence of medical officers accompanying the Napoleonic expedition into Egypt at that time. We propose a new stochastic model describing how bubonic plague outbreaks unfold in both rat and human populations, and perform Bayesian inference under this model using a particle Markov chain Monte Carlo. Rat carcasses were estimated to be infectious for approximately 4 days after death, which is in good agreement with local observations on the survival of infectious rat fleas. The estimated transmission rate between rats implies a basic reproduction number R0 of approximately 3, causing the collapse of the rat population in approximately 100 days. Simultaneously, the force of infection exerted by each infected rat carcass onto the human population increases progressively by more than an order of magnitude. We also considered human-to-human transmission via pneumonic plague or human specific vectors, but found this route to account for only a small fraction of cases and to be significantly below the threshold required to sustain an outbreak.“
Xavier Didelot, Lilith K. Whittles, Ian Hall
Journal of the Royal Society InterfaceJune 2017, Volume 14, issue 131

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[Article] Network theory and the Black death

„Network theory may explain the vulnerability of medieval human settlements to the Black Death pandemic“

by José M. Gómez & Miguel Verdú

Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 43467 (2017), doi:10.1038/srep43467

online unter: (27.03.2017)

Abstract: „Epidemics can spread across large regions becoming pandemics by flowing along transportation and social networks. Two network attributes, transitivity (when a node is connected to two other nodes that are also directly connected between them) and centrality (the number and intensity of connections with the other nodes in the network), are widely associated with the dynamics of transmission of pathogens. Here we investigate how network centrality and transitivity influence vulnerability to diseases of human populations by examining one of the most devastating pandemic in human history, the fourteenth century plague pandemic called Black Death. We found that, after controlling for the city spatial location and the disease arrival time, cities with higher values of both centrality and transitivity were more severely affected by the plague. A simulation study indicates that this association was due to central cities with high transitivity undergo more exogenous re-infections. Our study provides an easy method to identify hotspots in epidemic networks. Focusing our effort in those vulnerable nodes may save time and resources by improving our ability of controlling deadly epidemics.“ Source

Representation of the network connecting the medieval European and Asian cities through pilgrimage and commercial routes during XIV century.



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Heute: World Tuberculosis Day (24.03.2017)

Information provided by World Health Organization (WHO):

Article Collection provided by ELSEVIER: World TB Day 2017


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„Face of ‚ordinary poor‘ man“

„New facial reconstruction of a man buried in a medieval hospital graveyard discovered underneath a Cambridge college sheds light on how ordinary poor people lived in medieval England. …“

The facial reconstruction of Context 958. Credit: Chris Rynn, University of Dundee

University of Cambridge, Division of Archaeology – Project Website: After the Plague: Health and History in Medieval Cambridge

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Omne Bonum

Omne Bonum is a huge encyclopedia (1360-1375), whose compiler (and scribe), James le Palmer, sought to compile all the knowledge of his time, arranged alphabetically for the use of ‘simple individuals who wish to seek out the precious pearls of learning’. There are 1350 entries arranged under the 23 letters of the medieval Latin alphabet, with each letter comprising a book. Over 750 of these entries are accompanied by historiated initials.“ Source

The whole manuscript: British Library

Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (British Library): Omne Bonum

Ebrietas (Drunkenness), from Omne Bonum, England, S. E. (London); c. 1360-c. 1375, Royal MS 6 E VII/1, f. 1r

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[Ank.] History of Medicine & Medical Humanities Research Portal

The History of Medicine and Medical Humanities Research Web Portal is designed to gather resources in medical humanities for students, scholars, physicians, and the general public for learning, exploration, and research. […]

The portal will house a series of thematic modules in six areas, created by students, artists, historians, and colleagues.  Visit us again to see the work as it evolves: 

  • History of the Health Professions
  • Hospitals, Institutions, and Medical Education
  • The Public’s Health
  • Blood, Leeches, and Quacks
  • Arts, Literature, and Ethics

The History of Medicine and Medical Humanities Research Portal was created in 2016 by the Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine Ellen Amster, History Ph.D. candidate researchers Lauren Goldstein, Katarina Todic, and Nathan Coschi, and Bachelor of Health Sciences student Jinny Lee, with technical assistance from Todd Murray and the Computer Services Unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences.“ (Quelle)

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„Nature Did It…“

Nature Did It: Romans, Ecology and the Global History of Infectious Disease“

October 20, 2016

Lecture Series: What’s New in the Fall of the Roman Empire

Kyle Harper, Professor of Classics and Letters, Senior Vice President and Provost, University of Oklahoma

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