Category Archives: Researchers

Introduction – Herbert J. Mattie

I am an independent art historian and exhibition curator in Leiden, the Netherlands. Since I curated an exhibition about epidemics through history in 2001, visual imagery of the plague has my special interest. Within this discipline, the depictions of masked plague doctors are a niche subject that, although marginal by itself, has close ties to many aspects of the plague.

Contrary to a widely held belief, most historians now assume that a plague doctor in a full-body suit that included facial covering, was at most a very exceptional phenomenon. There are no reliable written sources that support the existence of a beak-shaped mask.
This leaves us with art-historical questions about visual, cultural, and historical influences and backgrounds, that can be summarized as: how can we interpret the iconology of the plague doctor images from the 17th and 18th century?

Naturally, this topic cannot be discussed without also considering their relationship to historical reality; therefore, a substantial part of my research has moved in that direction. It is interesting to note that plague doctor images have become so ubiquitous that they tend to block our view on the medical PPE that has been used through the ages, and, in a broader sense, on conceptions about contagion and protective measures in the early modern period.

In 2022 I made a small pop-up exhibition in the context of the Leiden – European City of Science event, I hope to develop this further into a larger exhibition about plague imagery and PPE in general.
In the meantime I run a website about the same subject, under the title  ‘Doctor Schnabel’s Plague Museum’.
I recently published an article about the earliest sources that mention a plague suit in the Journal for the History of Medicine and Health.

Herbert J. Mattie

Art historian and artist in The Netherlands. Exhibition curator, imagery of the plague, crossroads of arts and sciences.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Introduction – Pierre GALANAUD

I am an immunologist who was director of an INSERM funded lab and head of a clinical unit at Paris-Saclay university school of medicine. As such, I am interested in infectious diseases and collaborate on historical aspects with Anne Galanaud who is a PhD in history.

We studied the fine grain GIS-based cartography of mortality during 15th century epidemics in the city of Dijon. We evidenced higher and lower mortality clusters that correspond to urban areas of different housing densities and in some instances to the implantation of professionals.

Galanaud P, Galanaud A, Giraudoux P (2015) Historical Epidemics Cartography Generated by Spatial Analysis: Mapping the Heterogeneity of Three Medieval “Plagues” in Dijon. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0143866. doi:


We showed a higher epidemic mortality for recent immigrants as well as their contribution to post-epidemic resilience.

Galanaud P, Galanaud A, Giraudoux P, Labesse H (2020) Mortality and demographic recovery in early post-black death epidemics: Role of recent emigrants in medieval Dijon. PLOS ONE 15(1): e0226420.

We elaborated on the general susceptibility of migrants to past and present pandemics.

Galanaud P, Galanaud A, 2020, Recent immigrants at increased pandemic risk (letter), Science, 368, 1323. 10.1126/science.abd1098

Our current research is focused on professional environment and resistance to epidemics.


Present academic affiliation:

Emeritus Professor of Immunology

Universite Paris-Saclay


Introduction - Pierre Galanaud - Block Editor As an immunologist, I am interested in infectious diseases and collaborate on historical aspects with Anne Galanaud who is a PhD in history. Our current research is focused on the relationship between the environment of professionals and their resistance to epidemics.

More Posts

Introduction – Gunnar Neumann

I am a PhD student at the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, soon moving to the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

My research focus are ancient pathogens in western Eurasia and their evolutionary history. Among others, I work on Yersinia pestis from the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age until late medieval times. 


Gunnar Neumann

PhD student at the Department of Archaeogenetics of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena

More Posts

Follow Me:

introduction – Hannah Barker

I am an assistant professor of medieval history at Arizona State University with an interest in Black Sea – Mediterranean connections in the 14th century. I have an article coming out in Speculum in January about the timing and transmission process for plague from the northern coast of the Black Sea (Caffa and Tana) to Italy in 1347 via Genoese and Venetian grain shipment networks.

At the moment I am focusing on a non-plague-related project, but I am also interested in the early phases of the Second Pandemic in the Golden Horde/Caucasus region as well as the process of plague transmission from the Black Sea to Mamluk Alexandria in 1347.


Ole Benedictow – Introduction & new publication

Dear all,

My monograph The Black Death and Later Plague Epidemics in the Scandinavian Countries: Perspectives and Controversies, Berlin: De Greuter, pp. 736, has just appeared: it is published in hardcover edition and also on the Internet in the form of Open access, De Greuter Open, . The book provides much new work on the Black Death, but also translations of works that so far has not been available in English. It also contains several long chapters that relate thoroughly to questions and controversies with respect to the presence of black rats in the Nordic countries (pp. 395-451 with three maps), transmission and dissemination by human ectoparasites, and the early-phase transmission theory or hypothesis rather (as long its advocates cannot explain how pathogenic doses of plague bacteria in the foregut of fleas are moved into a new bite site against the strong stream of a new blood meal).

This involves also the gathering together and presentation of all data on plague bacteraemia in rats and human beings to clarify their potential roles as sources of infection of feeding fleas and lice, the prevalence of bacteremia in rats and human beings measured as number of plague bacteria per mL (mm3) of blood, the volume of blood fleas or lice ingest (µL), and, thus, the potential role of human ectoparasites and rat fleas in the transmission and dissemination of plague bacteria. Finally, there is discussion of border values of Lethal Doses of transmission in the case of human beings and the presence and conditions for transmission of LDs of plague bacteria. There are also studies of the pattern, rhythm and seasonality of the spread of plague epidemics as reflections of and, thus, sources of information on the processes of transmission and dissemination.

The introductory general chapter on plague contains also two specific subchapters that really are lengthy articles. In Chapter 1.5, all paleobiological data on finds of aDNA or F1 antigen of Y. pestis in putative plague graves are gathered together with a comprehensive presentation of the research history and achievements of the new discipline of paleobiology in plague-related research, pp. 73-99. Chapter 1.4, reverts to the topic of alternative theories of plague, in this case an epidemiological alternative, which so far has not been addressed seriously and critically: ‘Serious Plague History under Pressure: The Twelfth Theory of Historical Plague. Comments on the Recent paper “Climate-driven Introductions of the Black Death and Successive Plague Reintroductions into Europe”, pp. 35-72. The relevant points on the role of human ectoparasites in the epidemiology of plague are discussed in the chapters mentioned above.

I will be grateful for all critical and supplementary reactions, which can come to good use now that my English publisher has asked me to write a 2nd edn. of my monograph on the Black Death and I am working on it to the hilt. This is also the case with respect to my previous monograph What Disease was Plague? On the Controversy over the Microbiological Identity of Plague Epidemics of the Past, Leiden: Brill , pp. 746.

Happy New Year to all,

Ole J. Benedictow
Emeritus Professor,
Department of History,
University of Oslo

Introduction – Marcel Keller

I am a PhD student in the department Archaeogenetics of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. My academic background is Biology (B.Sc./M.Sc.) with specialization in Anthropology and Human Biology. The main project of my PhD is the reconstruction of genomes of Yersinia pestis of both the first (Justinianic Plague) and second pandemic (following the Black Death) in Europe. Additional ancient genomes of Y. pestis are crucial for phylogenetic analyses and allow a more detailed picture of the spatiotemporal distribution of plague.

Marcel Keller

Co-Editor of the Black Death Network
Postdoc in Palaeogenetics at U. of Tartu

More Posts

Follow Me:

Introduction – Giuseppe Muci

I’m an archaeologist and third-year PhD candidate in Science for Cultural Heritage at the University of Salento (Lecce, in southern Italy). My main fields of interest are landscape and settlement pattern changes in southern Italy from the Late Antique to the Early Modern period, with a specific focus on the transition between Late Medieval and Modern times. In my analyses of socio-economic dynamics I’m trying to link demographic data mainly collected from fiscal sources and settlements data collectet through archaological surveys in the region; the final aim is to understand if subsistence crises could have played a main role in the 14th century demographic decline . In addition to historical and archaological dataset, I make use of quantitative methods and GIS theoretical modelling to analyse human dynamics and settlement trends. On my page you can find a pair of papers focused on the analysis of demographic trends and agrarian sustainability during the Late Middle Ages in Terra d’Otranto province (


Medieval archaeologist and PhD Fellow in “Science for Cultural Heritage” at the University of Salento, Italy.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Introduction – Joris Roosen

As a first year PhD-candidate, I am working within the “Coordinating for life” project at the University of Utrecht. The project aims to explain why some societies are successful in preventing the effects of major hazards and buffering threats, or in recovering quickly, while others prove highly vulnerable. My specific sub-project focuses on the subject of the Black Death and the recurring waves of plague in late medieval Europe.

My research aims to look at the institutional framework of three regions in order to ascertain why some regions were able to mitigate and recover quickly from the effects of the Black Death whilst others did not.

The regions I will be investigating are coastal Flanders, Picardy and Norfolk.

Introduction – Alison Atkin

I am a second-year PhD student at the University of Sheffield, in England.  The aim of my PhD project is to apply new theory and methods recently developed in palaeodemography to gain a deeper understanding of mass fatality incidents.  The current focus of this project is identifying the ‘lost’ plague victims from Medieval England.

Using a multi-disciplinary approach, combining demographic data from archaeological examples, along with evidence from contemporary documentary sources, my research project aims to identify episodes of mass mortality as a result of the Black Death in Medieval England, which to date have been mis- or un-identified in the archaeological record – and to discuss changes to burial practices and funerary rights during and after the Black Death.


More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Introduction – Ted Boronovskis


I am an independent researcher from Perth, Australia who is interested in an as yet unexplained occurrence in the epidemiology of the Bubonic Plague – its apparent disappearance from Western Europe and the Medditeranian basin between AD750  until its reappearance in AD1347, whilst successive waves of epidemics continued in Central Asia and China.

The attached note was published in the medical history newsletter of the Australian & New Zealand society of the History of Medicine (4th series, No 38; Oct. 2012)




Introduction – Linda Ehrsam Voigts

I am retired academic who works primarily with Latin and vernacular medical texts from late medieval England. With Patricia Kurtz I am responsible for Scientific and Medical Writings in Old and Middle English (eVK2), a database on 10,000 texts and prologues searchable from the website of the History of Medicine Division of the (U.S.) National Library of Medicine, and through the Resources link at the home page of the Medieval Academy of America. We have also provided an electronic version of Thorndike and Kibre, Incipits of Medieval Scientific Writings in Latin (eTK) on those websites.
At present I am studying, with Ann Payne of the British Library, an English-language household compendium (including university medical treatises) datable to the reign of Henry VII. The section of recipes for members of the royal family contains many recipes, both prophylactic and therapeutic, against the plague.

Linda Ehrsam Voigts

Curators’ Professor of English Emerita
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Kansas City, MO y4110


Rainer Schreg


professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Rainer Schreg – archaeologist

My research interests are in the environmental and social history of past cultural and ecological changes especially within rural cultural landscapes.  Whereas most of my studies deal with villages in medieval Germany, I am also involved in field projects  in Neolithic chert extraction at the Southern Germany, on the medieval landscape in southwestern Crimea and on pre-Columbian and colonial sites in Panama, lower Central America. All these research project highlight specific situations of human-environment interaction.  Periods of fast change are especially informative for a reconstruction of the complex interaction of different drivers.

The 14th century is such an instructive situation of cultural change. It is however no situation of collapse. At least it is no collapse nor from a European or national perspective nor from a rather long-term perspective. The situation may be quite different if we focus on the level of families or small settlements. The 14th c. is an outstanding example, when dealing with an archaeology of crises as it highlights many heuristic problems.

In two articles I dealt with some theoretical aspects:

  • R. Schreg, Die Krisen des späten Mittelalters: Perspektiven, Potentiale und Probleme archäologischer Krisenforschung. In: F. Daim/D. Gronenborn/R. Schreg (Hrsg.), Strategien zum Überleben. RGZM-Tagungen 11 (Mainz 2011)  197-214 (
  • R. Schreg, Feeding the village – Reflections on the ecology and resilience of medieval rural economy. In: J. Klápště (Hrsg.), Processing, Storage, Distribution of Food – Food in Medieval Rural Environment. Ruralia 8 (Turnhout: Brepols 2011) 301-320.

Besides these rather theoretical reconsiderations my interest in the 14th century comes from two ongoing projects on medieval settlement formation: (1) the abandoned settlement of Würzbach in the Black forest and (2) a detailed study of three villages at the Stubersheimer Alb (part of the Suabian Alb north of Ulm).

As I am mainly engaged in medieval archaeology (or even historical archaeology in its European definition) I am especially interested in the interrelation of artefactual, written and pictorial evidence and on interdisciplinary research bringing together sciences and humanities.

I am working at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz, a time-honoured archaeological research institute covering all periods from the palaeolithic up to the early modern period. I also teach at the Universities of Mainz and Tübingen.

Currently I am also experimenting with an archaeological blog, dealing with various topics mainly from critical and environmental archaeology.
For more information on my person see: and

Rainer Schreg


professor in medieval and postmedieval archaeology at Bamberg university

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Introduction – Fabian Crespo

I am a biological anthropologist interested in human evolutionary immunology. My               primary research interest is to study the potential role of past pathogenic experiences (i.e.: Black Death)  in shaping the immune responses in human populations. Since 2007, I am studying and analyzing the differential expression of immune proteins (cytokines) in human populations, and establishing the potential usefulness of these proteins as markers for future studies of health and human evolutionary history significance. We can expect that protective immune alleles and proteins will show an increased frequency still after the epidemic event is declined or eliminated, and this should be understood as a legacy of that epidemic event. Moreover, we can suggest that if there was an “immunological storm” involved in the immune response during the epidemic event, today’s populations (descendants of those populations exposed to the long lasting pathogenic insult) will still reflect a strong inflammatory response, and one potential consequence (“legacy”) of that is an over-expression of autoimmune and/or chronic inflammatory diseases. Currently, my research agenda deals with an interdisciplinary approach between experimental immunology and bioarchaeological data.

I am looking forward to participating in and following this network that will give me the great opportunity to gain a better and more holistic understanding of the Black Death pandemic.

Introduction – Sharon DeWitte

I am a biological anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Carolina. I specialize in paleodemography, paleoepidemiology, and human osteology, and for several years, the focus of my research has been the Black Death.  I am particularly interested in the biological and social factors that affect risks of mortality during epidemics and how epidemics, such as the Black Death, have shaped human biology and demography. I have investigated the mortality patterns of the Black Death using hazard models and skeletal samples from London. Thus far, I’ve found that despite the very high mortality levels of the epidemic, the disease behaved similarly to non-epidemic causes of death by targeting certain individuals, i.e. the elderly and those already in poor health. I am currently examining the context of the emergence of the Black Death (including the effects of famine), and the ways in which the selective mortality of the epidemic affected health and longevity in the post-epidemic population. I am also interested in the molecular biology of the cause of the Black Death and the co-evolution between pathogens and humans in general.