on plague articles

Came across a new plague article today. my ‘oooo! plague article! yay!’ reaction got a couple of raised eyebrows. I work on all kinds of subjects. There are some subjects that I love that I’ve since been convinced that I can’t stand reading articles about. Some subjects you’ve read a few and everything after that it’s more about the minutiae.

Historical plague, otoh… endlessly entertaining.

*Always* a new angle. Want something about the society it took place in? New medical musings? Social inequality? Careful examination of trade? Vectors? Mathematics? Unreliable narrators? Archaeology? History? Writing? Religious hangups? Biology? Human behaviour? Meteorology?


Seriously. Today I had one that was examining plague outbreaks in medieval Iceland.

It talked about rural society makeup in a good couple of centuries apart, possible ways the plague got to Iceland due to it being isolated, which possible version of the plague it was due to how it was described (bubonic – that’s the fleas one – or pneumonic) and the time of year. Comparisons between different versions of the plague and the ones that had been reported in China and throughout Europe at that point. Disputing its own first theories on this later due to how warm it had been during the winter in that century. There was examination of unreliable narrators due to the monks that were compiling the stories were getting them from the elderly and they were talking about events that happened 50-60 years previous. How the stories and descriptions fitted into narrative and fairytale structure. Rat vs mice behaviour and rat populations in Iceland but also how rat populations could go relatively unnoticed if they were sufficiently hidden. Archaelogical discoveries regarding farms. Taxes and rents in lands owned by the church and how they were or weren’t collected. (adult cattle could be rented. Did you know that?)

All in one paper. And this was all stuff I’d not read before on the subject, or had new angles and new details. I’ve read ones that talked about the rise of highwaymen and ones that talked about how plague completely tore up societal structure and created a demand for labour so peasants and anyone with a skill didn’t have to be tied to the land or one lord and went where the wages were best. Created the roots of laws we take for granted. Medical discoveries! Religious fervour and new atheistic movements!

So yeah. Read plague papers. They’re worth it.