Mortality crises between the plagues workshop


at the Stirling Management Centre, 12-13 November 2013

Organised by Dr. Timothy P. Newfield, University of Stirling

An interdisciplinary and international workshop supported by the University of Stirling and the Economic History Society, “Mortality Crises between the Plagues: Epidemics, Epizootics and Food Shortages, c.800-c.1300 CE” takes place at the University of Stirling, Scotland, 12-13 November 2013.

Participating scholars will address European mortality crises between the last outbreak of the Justinianic Plague in 750 (or 767) and the irruption of the Black Death in 1346. The Justinianic Plague and Black Death have absorbed the industry of historians of medieval disease, economy and medicine sensitive to mortality crises for more than five decades. Though interest in these pandemics has only grown in recent years with the explosion of aDNA studies of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium most consider to have caused them, the Justinianic Plague and Black Death did not occur in a ‘crisis vacuum.’ New research has illuminated several important inter-plague crises in human and livestock populations and has re-emphasised the severity of the best-known inter-plague crisis, the Great European Famine of 1314-1322. The late eighth through early fourteenth century was not a period of demographic respite. It was not salubrious by pre-modern standards or pathogenically benign. Europe may have experienced significant population growth, rapid urbanisation and large agricultural colonisation in the inter-plague period, but these developments were not dependent on a release from exogenous sources of widespread excess mortality. The extension of trade, expansion of population centres, growing market dependence, and increasingly regular contact between regions in the inter-plague period facilitated the dissemination of disease and the development of significant food shortages.

The workshop will build on and synthesise recent scholarship. Its four primary objectives are to identify inter-plague epidemics, epizootics and subsistence crises in time and space, to gauge the demographic and economic fallout of these events, to consider temporal and spatial trends in their occurrence, and to examine possible synergy between disease, hunger and climate in the inter-plague period. In addressing these issues, the meeting intends to improve our understanding of European demography and population health between the Justinianic Plague and the Black Death, and to provide a proper crisis context, hitherto lacking, in which the Justinianic Plag ue and Black Death may be better understood.

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