Dr. Monica Green: A 700-Year Erasure: Recovering the Story of Plague at the Fall of Baghdad (1258)
How can a pandemic be "lost"? In the midst of our own modern pandemic, the idea that a pandemic could be invisible to contemporaries, or lost to the historical record seems hard to fathom. Yet the field of History of Medicine is only now wrestling with how much remains unknown about the histories of infectious diseases. The new field of palaeogenetics is transforming our ability to investigate the past at a molecular level. Findings in the field of plague studies have been particularly spectacular. But this work by scientists also forces historians to return to their documentary record to see why they had missed stories that now seem so obvious. The story of the role of plague in the Mongol conquest of Baghdad was retrieved not by geneticists, but by historians. Yet the reasons the story was lost in the first place offer an opportunity for historians to reflect on how we define "archives," and on what a slender thread we sometimes weave historical narratives.
Professor Monica Green is a distinguished medieval historian and historian of science and medicine who has previously taught at Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill, Duke and Arizona State. Her numerous publications include Women's Health Care in the Medieval West (2000) and Making Women's Health Masculine: The Rise of Male Authority in Pre-Modern Gynecology (2009). She has received many awards and fellowships for her work from the Institute for Advanced Study, Medieval Academy of America, and the History of Science Society, and many other scholarly organizations. In recent years, Professor Green has been rethinking the history of the Black Death with the tools of history and bioarcheology and more generally rewriting the global history of disease and pandemics in the premodern world. See her recent essay on "The Four Black Deaths" in the December 2020 issue of the American Historical Review: https://academic.oup.com/ahr/article/125/5/1601/6040962?guestAccessKey=c17f2558-99cf-4190-bed6-e6e32b93d8c6