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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Dr Samantha Williams

Academic Director and University Senior Lecturer in Local and Regional History, University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education; Bye-Fellow and Director of Studies in History, Girton College

How did our ancestors cope with previous pandemics? This talk considers how contemporaries responded to waves of bubonic plague in Cambridge in the 17th century. There were aspects that we would recognise today, such as social distancing from the infected, mask wearing, cleanliness, and the restriction of the movement of people. However, there were other belief and behaviours that would be less familiar to us: a belief in miasma (bad air) and that unruliness, disorder and even bad thoughts could cause plague. Just as Covid-19 has been extremely expensive, so was plague. This talk will explore all these features of epidemic disease.


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