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Humanities Speaker Series 2020: Pandemics in History


In this guide you will find sources to inform you about featured historical plagues, as well as some of their connections to COVID-19. Some of these are accessible with one click, while others might require you to login with your Borrower ID/PIN (Borrower ID is your VID and the PIN is the last four digits of your VID). Contact Librarian Ciara Hensley at chensley1@valenciacollege.edu if you need help accessing any of the sources. 

For questions about the event, please contact Dr. George Brooks at gbrooks@valenciacollege.edu for more information. 


Virtual Speaker Sessions

1. “The Athenian Plague: War and Pandemic at the End of the Classical Age”

Featuring Dr. Elizabeth Kosmetatou (U. of Illinois, Springfield)

Thursday, Oct. 8

Zoom Link to Join Session

Meeting ID: 994 9045 3586 • Password: 189824 

2. “The Antonine Plague: Plague, Privilege and Psychopathy in the Roman Empire”

Featuring Dr. Colin Elliott (Indiana University, Bloomington)

Wednesday, Oct. 14

Zoom Link to Join Session

Meeting ID: 988 4653 7363 • Password: 189824 

3. “The Bubonic Plague: Plagues and Faiths, Medieval and Modern”

Featuring Dr. David Nirenberg (U. of Chicago)

Thursday, Nov. 5

Zoom Link to Join Session 

Meeting ID: 941 2585 4019 • Password: 189824 

4. “The Spanish Flu of 1918: American Exceptionalism, White Supremacy, and the Failure of Leadership”

Featuring Dr. Nancy Bristow (U. of Puget Sound, Washington)

Wednesday, Nov. 18

Zoom Link to Join Session 

Meeting ID: 970 4437 5200 • Password: 189824 


All talks start at 6 PM (EST) and will be followed by Q&A

Plague Resources (eBooks, Videos, Articles, and More)


  • "Antonine Plague"
    • Article in the Ancient History Encyclopedia that discusses the history, symptoms, cause, death rates, and other effects of the Antonine Plague from religion to the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • "What Rome Learned From the Deadly Antonine Plague of 165 A.D."

    • From Smithsonian Magazine, this article from April 2020 discusses the historical impact of the Antonine Plague, as well as its similarities to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

  • "Pandemics Now and Then"

    • The article discusses the history of pandemics and the increasing vulnerability of populations to pandemics. Topics explored include the distinction between pandemic and epidemic particularly in terms of geographic transmission, brief details about the 1889 and 1918 influenza pandemics, and the significant transmission rate recorded for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

  • "Past Plagues Offer Lessons for Society"

    • From Science News, this article mentions the reference of a contagion known as the Antonine Plague in Roman Empire that made an impact on social and economic development like the coronavirus pandemic.

    • Click link, then click "PDF Full Text" to view content. 

  • "Galen and the Antonine Plague"

    • This scholarly article dives into the account of the Antonine Plague from the perspective of Galen, the Roman physician who witnessed it first-hand.

    • Click link, then click "View in JSTOR" to view resource.