SMA Conference 2019

Society for Medieval Archaeology 2019 Annual Conference

New perspectives on the ‘long’ Black Death

*Call for Papers will open soon*

Dates: Friday 5th and Saturday 6th July 2019 

Venue: King’s Manor, University of York, York.

The Society’s Annual Conference in 2019 will be on the 5–6 July at King’s Manor in York, and will be on New perspectives on the ‘long’ Black Death.

It will bring together researchers from a range of disciplines to explore how new research is advancing our understanding of the origins and impact of the 14th-century epidemic of plague that swept across the old world. The Black Death is a topic which was until recently somewhat neglected as an area of serious study, but this situation has been transformed in the 21st century by new approaches that are rapidly advancing knowledge of the eruption and devastation of an epidemic that may have lessons for today’s world.

The plenary address will be delivered by Monica H. Green:

The Historian, the Archaeologist, and the Geneticist: Pandemic Thinking

As we move soon into the second decade of the “new genetics paradigm” in plague studies, it is an opportune moment to assess the ways our understandings of plague have changed over the course of the past ten years. Since 2010, two points of consensus have emerged: that genetic material of Yersinia pestis can reliably be retrieved from archaeological remains, and that a single, global phylogeny of Y. pestis can be constructed that explains how any given strain of plague, at any time, in any place, relates to all others. Plague is plague is plague, no matter where in the world it is found, or when.

How does that global understanding of plague shape what we do now as medievalists? In what ways is our work now allied with the work of plague researchers the world over, from the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe to the forests of Madagascar and the mountains of Peru? This talk will address some implications of shifting our focus from a single “Black Death” (with the Eurocentric perspective that historical concept usually implies) to seeing the enormity of plague’s spread across late medieval Eurasia and Africa. What are the questions raised for archaeology and history (and even for genetics) of seeing most of later medieval and early modern Eurasia and Africa as participating in a widespread “plague regime”? How do we now study mass graves, or look for signs of plague reservoirs? How do we assess the demographic effects of plague, or the ways knowledge of a lurking menace may have altered cultural behaviors? Does plague raise questions for any of our methodologies that are unique? Or should all infectious diseases be investigated similarly?

More information coming soon.