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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 if you need help accessing any of the sources. 

For questions about the event, please contact Dr. George Brooks at 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)

Recording available here

Occurred on Thursday, Oct. 8

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

Featuring Dr. Colin Elliott (Indiana University, Bloomington)

Recording available here

Occurred on Wednesday, Oct. 14

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

Featuring Dr. David Nirenberg (U. of Chicago)

Recording available here

Occurred on Thursday, Nov. 5

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

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

Recording available here

Occurred on Wednesday, Nov. 18

All talks started at 6 PM (EST) and were followed by Q&A

Search the Library

Enter keywords below to search the library for books and media on your topic.


For full access, sign in with your Atlas login, using the link in the upper right-hand corner.

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.

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