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The Doctors and the Black Death: Reconsidering Expertise in an Age of Pandemic, with Brett Whalen

In the popular imagination, backwards and ignorant “medieval people” possessed no means of understanding or trying to combat the Black Death, the 14th-century outbreak of bubonic plague that ravaged Europe among other parts of the world. But in fact, while medieval doctors lacked modern medical technologies and knowledge of disease pathology, they showed remarkable creativity in their attempts to explain, diagnose and blunt the impact of the Black Death. Professor Whalen will discuss the value of such expertise in an age of pandemic—in the Middle Ages, but also in the contemporary moment.

Whalen received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2005 and teaches medieval religious, intellectual and cultural history in history at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is the author of several books, including “The Two Powers: The Papacy, the Empire, and the Struggle for Sovereignty in the Thirteenth Century” (2019).

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