Within nine months of plague’s arrival in Iberia and the Maghreb in late spring 1348, the kātib and muḳriʾ at the mosque of Almeria, Ibn Khātima (d. 1369), completed a treatise on the pandemic’s cause and consequences. His assessment of the pandemic’s origin, its three-year duration (starting in Mongol territory), and its identity with the disease that had devastated parts of the expanding Islamic world in the 7th century has still not been superseded by modern scholarship. Iberia and the Maghreb may have been on the far edge of the massive continents of Eurasia and Africa, but both were intimately connected to the trade routes and intellectual communities that knit the later medieval eastern hemisphere together. This talk will survey what is currently known about the presence of several infectious diseases in Iberia and West Africa up through the 14th century. New work in genetics and bioarchaeology lays a foundation to reconstruct the material history of western Afro-Eurasia in this period of ever-widening connections. Coupled with renewed investigations of the documentary record of these regions, a new history of disease is emerging.
Monica H. Green is a historian of medicine and global health. As a teacher of medieval history Green has won research and/or teaching awards from the Mediterranean Seminar, the History of Science Society, and the Medieval Academy of America. She is current working on two books: The Black Death: A Global History, as well as a study of the impact of the 11th-century medical translations of the North African immigrant and monk, Constantine the African.