Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

In Time of Pestilence

The current pandemic has inevitably occasioned parallels being drawn with those of the past, not just the “Spanish Flu” of 1919, but also the bubonic plagues in the time of the Emperot Justinian in the sixth century and the Black Death of the fourteenth century and its continuing reappearances down to the later seventeenth century. From what one knows and learns about that one can be grateful for living in a time of coronavirus rather than that of Y-pestis.

The BBC News website has had two posts about the Black Death.

Crossrail digs up Black Death victims reports on the discovery and analysis of skeletons from the plague pit near Charterhouse in London. Amongst other things this points to the population mobility of the fourteenth century and to the fact that victims looked to be those who were poorer and physically in less good shape. No real surprise there but interesting confirmation of the yhrories of historians - one suggestion is that it was a population weakened in early life by the Europe wide famine of 1315-17 who were particularly vulnerable in 1348-50. 

There are a series of links to related posts about the discoveries at the conclusion of the post.

Black Death 'spread by humans not rats' argues that it was pests living on and near humans rather than those on black rats that spread infection in the outbreaks of plague. This may well be the case, although some evidence suggests medieval hygiene was actually better than that of the early modern period. 

Whilst we have reached the early modern we may as well take in an epidemic rather than a pandemic, that of syphilis in eighteenth century London. The Mailonline has a quite lengthy piece today about the latest research into venereal disease in the capital then which can be read at One in five 18th century Londoners caught syphilis, study reveals

It all puts present concerns - which should not of course be minimised - into historical perspective.

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