James Boyce is a writer and historian whose books include Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World. He is a Research Associate at the University of Tasmania.
People turn to history during a crisis in the hope that there are “lessons” to be learnt. And if it’s examples of powerful pestilence we seek, there is no going past the 14th-century Black Death, which was unparalleled in its ferocity and impact.
It’s now estimated that up to half of the European population died in the first and most ferocious pandemic, between 1347 and 1353. With people of all ages being killed off, it took 150 years for the population to recover.
The scale of the tragedy ruptured many mediaeval certainties. Some historians have proposed it seeded the revolutions in political, social and religious thought that we call the Renaissance and the Reformation. Among other questions explored: How much did the Black Death contribute to increasing anti-Semitism, the rise of heretical movements, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the end of...
Nothing without context. Politics, society, culture.