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The Department of Historical Sciences and Theory of the Arts, Department of Nursing and Physiotherapy, and the Research Group on the History of Health (GIHS— University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), in collaboration with IN-HOPPE network -International Network -Historical and osteoarchaeological Past Populations Exploration and the Association of Historical Demography ( ADEH), is organizing a colloquium on the history of the plague. This international, transdisciplinary, and diachronic colloquium will focus on this epidemic from the point of view of the latest developments in history, archeology, epidemiology, and molecular biology. 

The plague is an often irreversible infection caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium. This bacterium affects human populations and its outbreaks, at times very violent, have generated one of the most feared scourges in history. In a wider sense, plague has been also used to refer to any sort of infectious, highly-lethal disease. In medieval and modern Spanish-language sources, the terms pestepestilencia, and contagion all refer to epidemics, despite the fact that not all of them are necessarily attributable to Yersinia pestis. The English term plague, likewise, encompasses several infectious diseases, such as cholera, smallpox or, more recently, AIDS or Ebola. Notwithstanding its focus on infections caused by Yersinia pestis, this conference would be remiss to ignore other contagious diseases, the pathogenic agent of which could not be properly characterized before the age of Pasteur.

These last years have witnessed significant progress in the study of plague epidemics, mainly as a result of the data provided by mortuary archeology and biological anthropology, which in turn have benefitted from very recent advances in molecular biology and genomics. Today, we not only know the genome of Yersinia pestis in full, but are able to trace its phylogenetic tree thousands of years into the past. This bacterium, often very pathogenic to humans, can affect you in different ways, mainly in its bubonic or pulmonary form. The more or less severe lethality of plague epidemics is an issue still open in historiographical debates.

The colloquium intends, on the one hand, to provide a panorama of the latest advances in the study of Yersinia pestis and, on the other hand, to promote dialogue among the different involved disciplines, both in life sciences and human and social sciences.

The colloquium will take place in parallel with other activities commemorating the last plague outbreak in Majorca (1820). The geographical scope of the meeting is centered on the Mediterranean region where the second pandemic ended, with the last known plague epidemic erupting in Egypt in 1834. We are aware that a broad geographic approach is required to understand the survival of this disease (for thousands of years), and to map the ways in which it spread. The chronological scope begins in Protohistoric timessince the bacterium has been identified in human skeletons dating back around 3,000 yearswith the goal of improving our understanding of when and how the bacterium developed its pathogenic nature.

Researchers from all disciplines involved in this kind of projects are invited to participate in this meeting by proposing, from a completely holistic and diachronic perspective, a paper on the following topics:

  1. The Yersinia pestis bacterium shows a complex contamination cycle. Since its vector(the flea) is well known, interest is focused on its “hosts,” in time and space, takinginto account, inasmuch as possible, the environmental conditions of the period under study.

  2. The epidemiological characteristics of Yersinia pestis and its transmission mechanisms, as compared to other epidemics with which it can be confused, considering the asymptomatic nature of the disease. For this purpose, contributions are requested to determine which diseases have been historically included under the concept of plague or pestilence.

  3. The pathogenicity of Yersinia pestis and its transmission mechanisms are intangible characteristics of this bacterium, but the virulence of its effects has changed dramatically. The issue of its differential lethality can be analyzed in connection to socio-economic contexts and implemented policies of prevention and public health.

  4. The plague in cities vis-à-vis the plague in the rural world: different models of transmission and contamination from both macro- and micro-demographic approaches.

  5. Can a new chronology be established for plague epidemics (both confirmed or attributable to some other pathogenic factor) based on recent research carried out across several continents?

  6. Can the economic, demographic, genetic, cultural, and material consequences of the major plague epidemics in the short, medium, or long run be appraised from a large- scale view?

The colloquium will take place on the 15th – 16th of October at the University of the Balearic Islands in the Sa Riera building (2 Miquel dels Sants Oliver street, 07122 Palma – Majorca: 39°34'37.5"N 2°38'41.4"E). On the 17th there will be a guided tour in the 1802 plague scenarios of 1820. Specifically, we will move to the municipalities of Son Servera, Sant Llorenç, Capdepera and Artà, located in the east of the island of Majorca.

Presentations will be delivered in English, Spanish or French.

If you want to participate, please send us the title of your paper and an abstract (300-500 words) before May 31, 2020, at the following link: t.ly/lrY1k .

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Submission Deadline 
May 31, 2020

The scientific committee  will notify the authors by June 30th the acceptance of their paper as oral presentations or posters.

No registration fees will be requested. However, travel expenses, accommodation and meals should be provided by the participants.

For further information, please contact Isabelle Séguy (Aquesta adreça electrònica s'està protegint contra robots de correu brossa. Necessites JavaScript habilitat per veure-la.  ) o Joana Maria Pujadas- Mora (Aquesta adreça electrònica s'està protegint contra robots de correu brossa. Necessites JavaScript habilitat per veure-la. ).