Infectious Historians Podcast, Episode #72: Climate Change and the Globalization of Disease in the Early Middle Ages with Tim Newfield

Eruption column from Mount Pinatubo.
The June 12, 1991 eruption column from Mount Pinatubo taken from the east side of Clark Air Base. U.S. Geological Survey Photograph taken on June 12, 1991, 08:51 hours, by Dave Harlow.

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Timothy Newfield talks to Merle Eisenberg and Lee Mordechai about the connected histories of climate change and diseases that become pandemics, focusing on the early medieval and late antique periods. Newfield opens by discussing the global cooling events starting in 536 and how researchers know they happened using datasets from natural sources. Then, he delves into one long-term climate cooling event, the Late Antique Little Ice Age, and its supposed connections to the Justinianic Plague in 541. He explains why researchers have remained so focused on the influence of climate on plague. At the end, he discusses where he believes the field of pre-modern historical diseases is going and the influence of Covid in this trajectory.

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