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The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research

Revisit the past to examine what the medieval experience of the Black Death can teach us about our own world and the science of disease.
The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 84.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Update of Previous Courses This is an unusual offering within The Great Courses (TGC) repertoire in that it is a follow-up and, in a sense, a correction to an earlier TGC offering. Dr. Armstrong and TGC published The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague in 2016. In the subsequent six years, much research into the black death has changed some of the conclusions in that earlier offering; this second offering aims to set the record straight. Although intended to correct her previous course, this course also updates other TGC offerings on the same subject. This is a short series. It consists of only seven lectures, one of which is only 17 minutes long. It is closer to a seminar than a course. Further, the last two lectures tend to stray away from the stated topic of the Black Death and into the 21st Century American politics of COVID-19. I’m a fanboy of Dr. Armstrong; I’ll purchase any TGC offering by her. However, I prefer that she stick to Middle Ages history. The course guide is a bullet summary of the lectures. It contains a bibliography but not a timeline nor a glossary. Given the medical terms, a glossary may have been helpful. I used the video version of the course. The visual aids are not crucial. It would be perfectly acceptable to listen to this course in audio-only mode such as while commuting or jogging. The course was published in 2022.
Date published: 2024-06-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The course was not about the Black Death The instructor, after three lectures provding updates on new ddicoveries on the way plague broke out and spred, then lectured listeners on modern politically oriented message on Covid and how modern societies should be run. This was not the course we thought was sold.
Date published: 2024-05-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good and Bad I found all of the lectures presented clearly, however, the last three lectures where disappointing. Other reviewers mention that this course could have been comprised of three 30-minute lectures relating to the Black Death. I agree. I found the first four lectures rewarding but found it really hard to get through the last three.The last three chapters with included a focus on Covid provided a format for the professor to present her " progressive" political views.
Date published: 2024-03-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not good I couldn't finish it... the final two lectures descended into being told how morally pathetic people are, without an ounce of grace. I wish that the presenter had simply stuck with telling the history without the moralizing.
Date published: 2024-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and extremely useful I watch all of the programs that Professor Armstrong presents. However, I will share this program with all my family, friends, and acquaintances. The corrections to the first program were very good and showed the value of revisiting subjects you believe you know well. However, the two final episodes point out how the information is pragmatically valuable and can be used to improve the civic response to a calamity like the current pandemic. Revisiting the mistakes of the first societies that dealt with the black death and the brilliant solutions that were developed to protect the public health of the survivors is inspiring. I think this program should be experienced by health departments, hospitals, police, clergy, civic leaders, and so on.
Date published: 2024-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! I stayed up to watch the entire series and appreciated the presenters knowledge abd insights on how the Black Death and the CIVUD pandemic parallel. I would live to know what she thinks if our current situation on January 4, 2924. I want all my friends to watch it. Sadly they are watching Netflix latest as we slid back into notcwearing masks as the J1 variant begins its rage. History can teach us so much. (Free this week with Xfinity.)
Date published: 2024-01-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not really a standalone course I like her presentation and don't object to the comparison and lessons to learn from the Covid 19 parallels - there is much that was done badly and it needs to be addressed - just a pity the people with power to change things are unlikely to engage with this course (I am UK based but many of the lessons apply here too). I watched the earlier course and whilst there is some interesting new material and "corrections" here it does not amount to a self contained course and the content is rather repetitive (both internally and quite a bit from the earlier course) and over extended. Seven episodes is rather short for a course but I think she could have covered everything in 3x30 minutes and it would have been more appropriate to add this as a free appendix to the first course.
Date published: 2023-12-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Skimpy and political The information in the lectures are interesting, but most of the lectures aren't a full half-hour long. In fact, one lecture is only 17 minutes long with no option for subtitles...at least on my video player. There are only seven lectures, "Why couldn't each be a full 30 minutes long?" I also agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the information presented was "political" opinion. However, this didn't surprise me as most academics are liberal and "pro-globalization". I would recommend against paying the full price or "retail" value of this course. I would suggest purchasing the course while it was on sale. I saw the original series by this same professor, so I bought this one thinking the quality would be the same. I was a bit disappointed, but I won't be requesting a refund, as useful information was still present.
Date published: 2023-12-26
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Overview

In The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research, celebrated medievalist Dorsey Armstrong corrects explanations of the famous medieval pandemic that are now known to be inaccurate and offers a more robust description of plague biology. COVID-19 isn’t likely to be humanity’s last experience with a zoonotic disease, so what can we learn now from these two pandemics that could help us in the future?

About

Dorsey Armstrong

Every turning point discussed in these lectures shifted the flow of the river of history, bringing us ever closer to the modern world.

INSTITUTION

Purdue University

Dorsey Armstrong is a Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she is also the head of the Department of English. She received her PhD in Medieval Literature from Duke University. She is the executive editor of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its modern enactments. She is a recipient of the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, Purdue’s top undergraduate teaching honor. Her other Great Courses include The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague and The Medieval World.

By This Professor

King Arthur: History and Legend
854
The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague
854
Years That Changed History: 1215
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Great Minds of the Medieval World
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The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research
854
La Peste Negra: La Plaga Más Devastadora del Mundo
854
Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything
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The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research

Trailer

Reassessing the Black Death

01: Reassessing the Black Death

As we deal with our own 21st-century pandemic, the curious among us have looked back to the 14th-century pandemic known as the Black Death. You’ll be surprised to discover how many of our assumptions and conclusions about that time have been upended as new methods of scientific inquiry have been applied to old questions.

21 min
A Deeper Dive into Rat and Flea Behavior

02: A Deeper Dive into Rat and Flea Behavior

A deeper understanding of rat and flea biology and behavior along with the 21st-century ability to examine ancient DNA have allowed us to correct long-held assumptions about the origin of the three known plague pandemics. Follow the fascinating scientific trail that now allows us to state with certainty where the plague did—and did not—originate.

26 min
Human-to-Human Plague Transmission

03: Human-to-Human Plague Transmission

Medieval peoples suffered from the unpredictability of the pandemic as it exploded in some seasons and locations, died down, and then showed up again years later. Explore what we have recently learned about transmission of the four types of plague—bubonic, pneumonic, septicemic, and digestive—and how that affected the timing and intensity of outbreaks.

17 min
Plague, Grain, and the Mongols

04: Plague, Grain, and the Mongols

We now know the grain trade was responsible for the movement of black rats and their fleas around the medieval world. Learn how a serious increase in European urbanization and well-established trade networks set the continent up for a devastating fall once the Mongols pushed west into the area.

31 min
The Big Bang of the Black Death

05: The Big Bang of the Black Death

Scientists have discovered that what gave the Black Death its stunning lethality and transmissibility was a mutation in a bacterial strain about 100 years before the plague showed up in Europe. Explore the genetics of Yersinia pestis and learn how scientists have confirmed that plague came into the European world only one time.

26 min
The Fate of the Plague’s Survivors

06: The Fate of the Plague’s Survivors

We now understand better than ever that the experience of a pandemic—both then and now—is not a singular event or occurrence. It is an ongoing trauma, and we have no way to know when it will be over. Examine the inherent societal flaws that pandemics reveal and consider whether any of our social, economic, medical, and political safety nets held up the way we had hoped.

22 min
The Old World Falls Away

07: The Old World Falls Away

For those who survived the upheaval of this medieval pandemic, European life—and even the understanding of the very purpose of government—had forever changed. Study the many ways in which society responded to this massive depopulation and its associated problems by looking at the social networks that were developed to better combat plague and provide relief and support.

24 min