Bubonic plague, the Black Death, first swept Europe in the age of Justinian, in
the sixth century, killing an estimated 25 million people in the Byzantine Empire and spreading further west. Its
most devastating outbreak was in mid-fourteenth-century Europe,
when it destroyed perhaps a third of the continent's population. Italian
city-states pioneered the policies of quarantine and isolation that
remained standard preventive measures for many centuries; religious
revival and popular disturbances, crime and conflict may have spread as
life was cheapened by the mass impact of the plague. The economic effects
of the drastic reduction in population were severe, though not necessarily
negative. Later outbreaks of the plague culminated in outbreaks in Seville (1647), London
(1665), Vienna (1679) and Marseilles
(1720) and then it disappeared from Europe while recurring in Asia through
the nineteenth century. The plague set the template for many
later confrontations with epidemic disease, discussed in the following
Professor Richard J. Evans FBA is Regius
Professor of Modern History and President of Wolfson College at the University
has lectured extensively all over the world at a variety of literary festivals
and events, is widely published and is a frequent contributor to the broadcast
media and the press.
He has been Editor of theJournal
of Contemporary Historysince
1998 and a judge of the Wolfson Literary Award for History since 1993.
His most recent publication was the third volume of his monumental large-scale
history of the Third Reich,The Third Reich at War, which was
published in 2008.
Evans's area of research interest lies predominantly in German history,
especially social and cultural history, since the mid-nineteenth century.
He has worked on movements of emancipation and liberation, including the
feminist movement and the labour movement, on social inequality in the urban
environment, and on the social history of death and disease. His work on
the history of crime has involved examining literary discourses and their
interaction with social models of deviance, both those articulated by the
authorities and those lived by deviants themselves. Since acting as
principal expert witness in the David Irving libel trial before the High Court
in London in 2000, his work has dealt with Holocaust denial and the clash of
epistemologies when history enters the courtroom.