History's Great Plagues How Germs Shaped Civilization

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Plague has terrified and fascinated humanity for all of recorded history. Now, in the current moment of COVID-19, people around the globe are again struggling to learn how to navigate life during a pandemic. As in times of uncertainty throughout history, we seek the insights of the great minds who have lived through and reflected on similar historical moments.

Your guide for this fascinating 12-lecture audio course is medieval literature expert Chris Fee, a presenter beloved for his evocative delivery by Learn25 listeners and his own students at Gettysburg College.

You’ll begin by examining literary attempts to understand and to interpret pestilence and plagues, starting with the Bible and Ancient poets, playwrights, and historians. You’ll then move on to some of the greatest works of the Middle Ages and Renaissance that were inspired by or reflect aspects of the infamous Black Death.

Entering the Modern Age, you’ll explore works by authors that employ plague as a metaphor. Along the way, you will also delve into popular books and movies, such as 12 Monkeys, that take plague as their subject or subtext. You’ll conclude by discovering that the literature of plague has much to teach us, not just about the current moment, but about the very nature of being human.

This course is part of the Learn25 collection.


  • Opening Credits

    Duration: 08s
  • About the Author

    Duration: 01min
  • Lecture 1: From Pestilence to Pandemic - The Many Faces of Plague

    Duration: 23min
  • Lecture 2: From the Ten Plagues of Egypt to the Seven Bowls of God's Wrath - Great Plagues of the Bible

    Duration: 23min
  • Lecture 3: Plague and Homer, Divine Intervention and The Wrath of the Gods

    Duration: 22min
  • Lecture 4: Plague and Sophocles

    Duration: 22min
  • Lecture 5: Plague and Thucydides - History, Horror and the Realities of Ancient Epidemic

    Duration: 23min
  • Lecture 6: Enter the Black Death, Boccaccio, Art, and Love in an Age of Pestilence, Horror and Death

    Duration: 23min
  • Lecture 7: Chaucer. The Black Death and the Rise of the Middle Class in Late Medieval England

    Duration: 28min
  • Lecture 8: A House Where the Infectious Pestilence Did Reign - Shakespeare and the Plague

    Duration: 23min
  • Lecture 9: From the Great London Plague of 1665 to the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918

    Duration: 29min
  • Lecture 10: Plague in Modern Fact, Fiction, and Fantasy

    Duration: 24min
  • Lecture 11: From 12 Monkeys to the Zombie Apocalypse - Plagues and Contemporary Pop Culture

    Duration: 25min
  • Lecture 12 - From Jack London to Albert Camus - In the Age of Covid-19.

    Duration: 25min
  • Ending Credits

    Duration: 11s