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Plagues and history

Plagues and history

Lecture by Chris Dobson and Mary Dobson

Given at Darwin College, Cambridge, on January 24, 2014

Abstract: Plagues have changed history, stopped armies in their tracks and altered the fate of nations. Mary and Christopher Dobson will outline the impact of plagues on human history and reflect on related challenges that will be faced by future generations. Taking a broad chronological perspective, their talk will range from the plagues of antiquity and the medieval period, including the Black Death of the mid-14th century, to the major infectious diseases of the 20th and 21st centuries, such as the 1918-19 Spanish flu and the recent pandemic of HIV /AIDS.

They will also highlight the continuing importance of addressing the ‘silent’ killers, such as the many diseases that afflict children and the poor in low-income countries, as well as discussing the increasingly prevalent afflictions of ageing and affluent societies, including dementia and diabetes. Tremendous advances have been made over the centuries in our understanding, prevention, and treatment of disease, with triumphs such as the eradication of smallpox and a substantial rise in life expectancy in many parts of the world. Major challenges now are to find ways of preventing modern ‘plagues’, such as those facing our ageing populations, and this talk will conclude by looking at scientific research that offers hope for current and future generations.

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See also more talks from Plagues – Darwin College Lecture Series in 2014:

Plagues and Economic Collapse, by Ian Morris

Plagues, populations and survival, by Stephen J O’Brien

See more videos from the Darwin College Lecture Series Youtube page

Top Image: Citizens of Tournai bury plague victims. Miniature from The Chronicles of Gilles Li Muisis (1272–1352). Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 13076-77, f. 24v.

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