[PAST EVENT] Africana First Friday Lecture with Professor Gerard Chouin

November 7, 2014
12pm - 1pm
Boswell Hall (formerly Morton Hall), Room 314
100 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Please join Africana Studies' First Friday Lecture with Professor Gerard Chouin. His lecture is entitled, "Against the Current: Building evidence of the spread and impact of Bubonic Plague in sub-Saharan Africa (6th-20th c. CE)."

Of the three plague pandemics that shook the world over the last two millennia, only the last one, starting at the very end of the 19th century, is relatively well documented in sub-Saharan Africa. The two earlier pandemics, respectively known as the Plague of Justinian (6th-8th c.) and the Medieval Plague or Black Death (14th-18th c.), are almost entirely absent from the historiography of Africa. At first glance, it would seem the African continent, entrenched behind the Sahara, was one of the few parts of the Old World that remained untouched by a disease that killed millions and contributed to profoundly reshaping the societies it struck.

Plague, in its various forms, was a disease that spread mainly through human agency, through the movement of goods and people. Is it possible that sub-Saharan Africa was so disconnected from the rest of the world during these periods that its people were spared from such an otherwise global calamity? Or did the killer disease escape the attention of historians, prisoners as they were of mainstream African historiographical tropes?

During this presentation, I will retrace my intellectual journey against mainstream historical expectations about Africa, provide emerging evidence of the spread and impact of bubonic plague south of the Sahara, and present the outline of a new project that aims to explore a new series of sources and material to finally decide whether plague has a place or not as a factor in African history.

[[ksperling, Kristen Sperling]]