Martínez-Dávila launches free, 10-week lecture series “Medieval Plague, Modern Pandemic”

Roger Martínez-Dávila, associate professor of history, offers a look at the modern COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of the Black Death in a free, 10-week lecture series “Medieval Plague, Modern Pandemic.”

Martínez-Dávila posted the first video April 3 and will release a new lecture each Friday on his YouTube channel.

“The intent of the short series of lectures is to create a place for discussing the medieval Black Death as a way to for us – here and now– to examine, understand, and reflect on the present global coronavirus pandemic of 2019 and 2020,” Martínez-Dávila wrote in the description of the first video. “While the diseases are distinct from one another, humanity’s response to both events creates a unique opportunity for us to better understand ourselves and our future through the investigation of our predecessor’s beliefs and actions.”

The lecture series will frame content around 10 questions for viewers to consider:

  1. What was the Black Death and what were the immediate societal impacts of the plague from 1347 to 1353?
  2. Why did medieval peoples believe the Black Death had to come visit them? How did religion and magic shape perspectives on the causes of the plague and how to confront the beast?
  3. As the Black Death withered humanity’s interconnectedness, how and why did human relationships transform within cultures and in between cultural groups?
  4. How did plague initially decimate medieval trade and the ability to provide for one’s family? In what ways did economies adapt and remake themselves?
  5. In what manner were cities and human population centers re-shaped by the pandemic?
  6. How was law and order impacted by plague and who suffered the wrath of its fragmentation and breakdown?
  7. To what extent did medical and scientific knowledge about the natural world and disease prepare communities for the challenges of the Black Death?
  8. How did the pandemic change social status relations between nobles and commoners … and demand the re-ordering of society?
  9. What motifs and messages did medieval peoples communicate via art, architecture, and music in response to the Black Death?
  10. When did societies begin to recover from the medieval pandemic and how did they emerge as reborn and transmuted communities?

Martínez-Dávila focuses his research in medieval Spanish history and has taught multiple massive open online courses, or MOOCs, on the subject through CU’s Coursera offerings. He served as a Marie Curie Fellow at the Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid and as a guest curator at The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe.