Research plans and this blog

I suppose I need structure, even for my little independent projects. I don’t know what will become of these projects or how long they will last, but this will explain some of what you will see on this blog over the next couple years.


  • Bioarchaeology of the Plague: I’ve been looking for a term to wrap up all of my interests in the historic plagues. Microbiology, public health, archaeology, and history all seem to add up to bioarchaeology when applied to primarily historic populations. I’ve got tons of reading to do especially since archaeology is my least familiar topic of the four. My plan is to use this blog as a place to share and store notes on sources, almost like an annotated bibliography. Once I feel up to speed on all the reading, we’ll see where this project goes from there.
  • The Plague of Justinian in Northern Europe: My primary historical interest is in the early medieval period, 5th century through 8th century. This happens to perfectly encapsulate the first plague pandemic, better known as the plague of Justianian (541-c.750). The challenge here is the scarcity of documentary sources and even more rare archaeological evidence. The Plague of Justinian is an area where archaeology really could dominate the topic because of the lack of contemporary documentation. Archaeology could define the spread and endurance of the plague but it appears that period remains are rarely screened for plague. Hopefully now that plague has been found in 6th century Bavaria where there was absolutely no documentation of plague it will encourage more testing. Short of archaeological discoveries, I will focus on the few contemporary witnesses, primarily Bede of Jarrow (d. 735),  Gregory of Tours (d. 594), and various chronicles. This is  a completely open niche for research. I think there have been less than a half-dozen articles published on the Plague of Justinian in northern Europe in the last 25 years. Right now I’m focusing on plague in the works of Bede.

I’m open to comments and suggestions. I’m always happy to learn of new sources or people I should get in touch with.


7 thoughts on “Research plans and this blog

  1. Michelle,
    In response to your post of 18 June outlining your independent project on the Plague of Justinian in Northern Europe , may I introduce myself?

    I am an elderly clerk living in Perth, Australia who has a pet project very akin to yours, namely; “why did the Plague of Justinian – a Bubonic Plague – abate circa 750AD and not recur for some 700 years”?

    I have been researching this in my spare time for some years and have got a numbver of lines of enquiry going which I am happy to share with you if you are interested.

    As my endeavours are limited to what I can glean via the internet I have not made great inroads. And quite frankly would welcome suggestions for new approaches/directions.




    1. Ted,

      You have hit on the big mystery. There really hasn’t been a gap that long between any of the other waves of plague. I suspect a lot of it is just not knowing what is going on in much of Asia during that time. Its likely to be changes in human behavior or communication lines too. I’d like to know more of what is happening on the maritime and land routes of the silk/spice road between c. 750-1350. I’d like to hear any ideas that you have.



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