How Climate Change in Asia brought the Black Death to Europe

Several hundred years old juniper tree in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Andrea Seim (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

A group of Norwegian and Swiss researchers have uncovered links between climatic changes in central Asia and repeated outbreaks of the Bubonic plague in Europe, starting with the Black Death in the 14th century.

An Italian cemetery may provide clues on cholera’s evolution

Field School students excavate human remains buried in the post-medieval churchyard at Badia Pozzeveri - photo courtesy Ohio State University

Burial grounds ‘a thousand-year history’ into human health

Epidemics Past and Present: What Historic Diseases Tell Us About Future Threats

Epidemics Past and Present What Historic Diseases Tell Us About Future Threats

Dr. DeWitte will discuss how bioarchaeological research on past epidemics such as the Black Death can improve our understanding of emerging diseases and human-pathogen coevolution in general, and the potential it has to provide tools for dealing with disease in living populations.

How to restore virginity – advice from Caterina Sforza

Caterina Sforza

If you follow the advice of Caterina Sforza, ‘you will see that thing become so narrow that you yourself will be in admiration.’

Visualizing the Body: A Symposium in Honor of the 500th Anniversary of Vesalius’ Birth

Frontispiece from De humani corporis fabrica, Basileae: 1543, by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564

Thank-you to Kele Cable of the University of Minnesota for allowing us to post his Storify account of the Visualizing the Body Symposium, held in November 2014

Black Death DNA found in teeth

The plague of Florence in 1348, as described in Boccaccio's Decameron. Etching by L. Sabatelli

Remnants of the genetic makeup of plague bacteria have been found in thousands of victims of the Black Death and the major plague epidemics at the end of the Iron Age. The DNA analyses may predict the next plague outbreak.

Eyewitness accounts of the 1510 influenza pandemic in Europe

Sick man in bed - Royal 6 E.VII, f.70

In 1510, there was little appreciation that a specific respiratory disease might have been recurring over centuries, but historians now believe that influenza had probably been circulating as an epidemic disease since as early as the 9th century AD, if not earlier.

Toxicology and Treatment: Medical Authorities and Snake-bite in the Middle Ages

medieval snake and man

By end of the thirteenth century, surgeons and university-trained physicians in Western Europe had a plethora of authorities from the Greco-Roman and Arabic tradition from which to consult for the treatment of snake-bites.

Vikings’ homes would have been very polluted, researchers find

Viking House in Hedeby - photo by Kai-Erik

Danish researchers have found that the fires used for cooking and heat in Viking-era houses would have caused significant indoor air pollution.

Tips on Surviving a Poisoning from Maimonides

maimonides on poison

Maimonides explains what to do when you believe someone is trying to poison you, and what were some of the most dangerous poisons of the Middle Ages.

Make-Up and Medicine in the Middle Ages

Medieval woman combing her hair

A look at cosmetics and make-up in the Middle Ages.

A History of Tonsillectomy: Two Millenia of Trauma, Hemorrhage and Controversy

Dissection of the mouth from 1537

‘This procedure is liable to resolve itself into physical combat between the surgeon and his patient.’

Intersex in the Middle Ages

Statue of Hermaphrodite - Louvre

A brief look at how the medieval world viewed the Intersex individual.

Tacuinum Sanitatis: A Way of Life

Image courtesy

How to maintain one’s health in the Middle Ages – the advice from the Tacuinum Sanitatis

Medieval Books for Christmas

The Middle Ages - Johannes Fried

It’s that time of year again – the mad scramble for the perfect Christmas gift for the historian, nerd, avid reader on your list. Here are a few suggestions for you – new releases for December and January!

Sights for Sore Eyes: Vision and Health in Medieval England

Detail of a diagram of the seven tunics and three humours of the eye and the skull, labelled for the conjunctiva, cornea, uvea, albugineus (aqueous) humor, tunica aranea (interior capsule of the lens), cystalline humor or lens itself.

The eye being the noblest and most frail of the external organs, a single grain of corrosive matter is more harmful to it than a hundred would be to feet or jaws; thus we must operate on the eye and such like organs much more carefully.

Plague Remedies from Renaissance Italy

Renaissance Florence - photo by Francesco Caminiti

‘Rue tops, one clove of garlic, a walnut, a grain of salt, and eat on an empty stomach everyday for up to a month, and you must be cheerful, and this recipe, it’s good against vermin and it’s perfect.

The Medieval Globe launches with special issue on the Black Death

The Medieval Globe. | Photo courtesy Arc Medieval Press/Paul Smit

Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death is the theme for the inaugural issue of The Medieval Globe.

The rebirth of fertility: the Trotula and her travelling companions c. 1200-1450


This thesis examines to what extent women were involved in their own healthcare and that of others, in the late medieval period.

Fossil Sharks’ Teeth: A Medieval Safeguard Against Poisoning

Vienna, Treasury of the German Order. So called Natternzungenkredenz ( 15th/16th century ) made of fossil shark teeth and red coral - photo by Wolfgang Sauber

In the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, particularly between the thirteenth and the sixteenth century, the most common way of eliminating one’s enemy was by poisoning his food or drink at a banquet.

What can fourteenth century Venice teach us about Ebola?

Venice 17th century

Venice’s response to the plague an “example of resilience management,’ say experts

Medieval Beauty Tips

medieval beauty tips

How did women in the Middle Ages make their hair, faces and skin look beautiful? The Trotula, a medieval text for women written in 12th century Salerno includes recipes and instructions that help ladies clear up their skin, colour their hair and even get rid of the stench from their mouth! Here are 15 excerpts from the Trotula that offer medieval beauty tips!

Healthy Eating in the Middle Ages: the Tacuinum Sanitatis


In the late Middle Ages, princes and the powerful learnt the health and hygiene rules of rational medicine from the Tacuinum Sanitatis, a treatise on well-being and health widely disseminated in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Þur sarriþu þursa trutin: Monster-Fighting and Medicine in Early Medieval Scandinavia


This paper seeks evidence among our extensive Scandinavian mythological texts for an area which they seldom discuss explicitly: the conceptualisation and handling of illness and healing.

Petrus Hispanus (circa 1215-1277) and ‘The Treasury of the Poor’

Pope John XXI (Petrus Hispanus)

The identity of Petrus Hispanus is a matter of some controversy. Part of the problem is centred on the fact that ‘Hispanus’ covers the general region of the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in medieval times as ‘las Españas’ (the Spains), incorporating both present day Spain and Portgual.

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