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Meet a Medieval Source Videos

An Introduction to the Letter of Caesaria of Arles to Radegund of Poitiers, by Hope Williard

Dr. Hope Williard, University of Lincoln

Readings and Resources (freely available online)

Discussion Questions

  • What were the possibilities and limitations of monastic life for early medieval women?
  • What might this letter tell us about Merovingian women’s literacy?
  • What is asceticism? How is it depicted in this letter?

Bibliography (available as e-books through library subscriptions)

  • Angelo Di Berardino, ed. Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity (Downers’ Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1994-2013), pp. 1:407 (biography of Caesaria) and 3:374 (biography of Radegund).
  • Jo Ann McNarama and John E. Halborg, with E. Gordon Whately, Sainted Women of the Dark Ages (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), pp. 112-8.

Further Reading (available online through library subscriptions)

  • Magdalena Elizabeth Carrasco, “Spirituality in Context: The Romanesque Illustrated Life of St. Radegund of Poitiers (Poitiers, Bibl. Mun., MS 250).” The Art Bulletin 72: 3 (1990), pp. 414–435. 
  • Jennifer C. Edwards, Superior Women: Medieval Female Authority in Poiters’ Abbey of Sainte-Croix (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 25-59.

To Cite This Page

Williard, Hope, “An Introduction to the Letter of Caesaria of Arles to Radegund of Poitiers,” Middle Ages for Educators, May 8, 2020. Accessed[date]. http://middleagesforeducators.com/uncategorized/an-introduction-to-the-letter-of-caesaria-of-arles-to-radegund-of-poitiers,-by-hope-williard/

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Course Materials Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Early Transmission of the Black Death, by Hannah Barker

Hannah Barker, Arizona State University

Primary Sources

Petition from the Residents of Caffa, 1347

Mussis, Gabriele de’. “The Arrival of the Plague.” In The Black Death, ed. Rosemary Horrox, 14-26. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1994.

Further Reading: Primary Sources

Bartsocas, Christos. “Two Fourteenth Century Greek Descriptions of the ‘Black Death’.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 21 (1966): 394-400.

Heyligen, Louis. “The Plague in Avignon.” In The Black Death, ed. Rosemary Horrox, 41-45. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1994.

Dols, Michael. “Ibn al-Wardi’s Risalah al-naba’ ‘an al-waba. A Translation of a Major Source for the History of the Black Death in the Middle East.” In Near Eastern Numismatics.  Iconography, Epigraphy, and History:  Studies in Honor of George C. Miles, ed. Dickran Kouymijian and George Miles, 443-455. Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1974.  

Muisis, Gilles. “The Plague Seen from Tournai.” In The Black Death, ed. Rosemary Horrox, 45-47. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1994. 

The Report of the Paris Medical Faculty, October 1348.” In The Black Death, ed. Rosemary Horrox, 158-163. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1994.

Villani, Giovanni. “Chronicle.” In John Aberth, The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350: A Brief History with Documents, 19-20. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Discussion Questions

  1. In this petition, the inhabitants of Caffa ask for money, soldiers, and a bishop. Why do they need each of those things? Why do they turn to the doge of Genoa for help?
  2. At the time when this petition was written, had anyone in Caffa shown symptoms of plague? If so, which symptoms? If not, why did the petition mention “an endless plague of death”?
  3. Compare what this source says about the early transmission of the Black Death with the account of Gabriele de’ Mussis. Based on what you know about modern medical research on plague transmission, which version makes more sense? Based on what you know about medieval ideas about disease and contagion, which version would make more sense to medieval readers?
  4. Compare what this source says about the early transmission of the Black Death with another source from the list of Further Reading – Primary Sources. How are the two accounts similar? How are they different? What do you think the differences imply?

Further Reading – Seconday Sources

Barker, Hannah. “Laying the Corpses to Rest: Grain Embargoes and the Early Transmission of the Black Death in the Black Sea, 1346-1347.” Speculum (forthcoming 2021). Preprint on BodoArXiv, May 2, 2020. 

Dols, Michael. The Black Death in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979. 

Green, Monica, ed. Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death. In The Medieval Globe 1, no. 1 (2014). Accessed May 7, 2020. 

Schamiloglu, Uli. “The Impact of the Black Death on the Golden Horde: Politics, Economy, Society, Civilization.” Golden Horde Review 5, no. 2 (2017): 325-343.

Spyrou, Maria, Marcel Keller, Rezeda Tukhbatova, et al. “Phylogeography of the Second Plague Pandemic Revealed through Analysis of Historical Yersinia pestis Genomes.” Nature Communications 10/4470 (2019), 1-13.

Varlik, Nükhet. Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World: The Ottoman Experience, 1347-1600. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

To Cite This Page

Barker, Hannah, “Early Transmission of the Black Death,” Middle Ages for Educators, May 7, 2020. Accessed[date]. http://middleagesforeducators.com/uncategorized/early-transmission-of-the-black-death,-by-hannah-barker/

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Asynchronous Digital Activities Meet a Medieval Source Videos

Music and the Black Plague in Tuscany, by Eleonora Beck

Eleonora Beck, Lewis & Clark College

Primary Sources

Detail from The Triumph of Death, by Buonamico Buffalmacco, fresco, Campo Santo, Pisa, c. 1338-39

And full image with details The Three Dead and the Three Living (on the left) and The Triumph of Death, fresco, Campo Santo, Pisa, c. 1338-39

Effects of Good Government on the City Life, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, fresco, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 1338.

Audio Source

Per Tropo Fede

Digital Resource

Decameron Web

Discussion Questions

  1. What kind of music did Florentines listen to as they battled the Black Plague?
  2. Why is music so prominent in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Effects of Good Government and the Decameron of Boccaccio?
  3. What can we learn from the 14th century in our battle against the Corona virus?

To Cite this Page

Beck, Eleanora, “Music and the Black Plague in Tuscany,” Middle Ages for Educators, May 6, 2020. Accessed[date]. http://middleagesforeducators.com/uncategorized/music-and-the-black-plague-in-tuscany,-by-eleonora-beck/

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Course Materials

A Medieval Plague Lesson Plan, by Merle Eisenberg

Merle Eisenberg, SESYNC, Co-Founder The Middle Ages for Educators

Teaching medieval diseases and pandemics, especially the plague, has become, not surprisingly, more central to courses on medieval history over the last few months. Luckily, the medieval studies community includes many generous and talented colleagues eager to share their expertise and resources. Below you will find some open-access material the Middle Ages for Educators has collected including background material, primary sources, and short lessons on reactions to plague. We also offer more background reading on plague and pandemics in our resources page.

Background on the Plague

You can find some great background about the biology and history of the plague on the Infectious Historians podcast episode entitled “Plagues in Human History,” which can also be found on most major podcasting networks. If your students want to know more about the two major outbreaks, the Justinianic Plague and the Black Death, there are additional episodes on each of them as well. This podcast is co-hosted by Merle Eisenberg and the website has links to additional readings, some of which are open-access.

Primary Sources

Jessica Goldberg at UCLA has provided us with her own translation and commentary of the famous 1348 Ordinances of Pistoia. The Ordinances were issued upon the arrival of the plague early in the Spring of 1348 (March or April) and are the city’s response about a month later. Her wonderful translation also includes artwork that really give a unique idea of what was happening in Pistoia when the plague struck.

Merle Eisenberg also uploaded a video, sources, and questions for teaching the Justinianic Plague (c. 541-750 CE). He has provided a mini lesson for teaching students about what its impact may (or may not) have been.

Reactions to Plague

Dan Smail’s video and lesson plan about the effect of the Black Death on a single woman and her family in Marseille is definitely a great way to discuss the individual impact of this disease. It is one thing to think about the mortality rate of a pandemic or its impact on governments, but Smail offers a micro-history that demonstrates how the diseases devastated families, through various other viewpoints such as legal history, gender, and disability studies. He tells a powerful story of the past that has striking resonances for the present.

Abigail Agresta has also written a wonderful, short blog post on the Infectious Historians website that offers a way into how medieval people responded to the outbreak of the Black Death. Like many of us today, there were only so many options that people living in the medieval period had and she offers a source on them plus a short discussion. Her blog post could be a useful interactive exercise to do with your students as another way to teach the outbreak of the Black Death.

To Cite this Page

Eisenberg, Merle, “A Medieval Plague Lesson Plan,” Middle Ages for Educators, May 4, 2020. Accessed[date]. http://middleagesforeducators.com/uncategorized/a-medieval-plague-lesson-plan/