Organized Panel Session
Plague has been associated with Asia since the Justinianic plague of Byzantium, yet the entire foundation for studying its history has been transformed in the last decade by genomics. One effect of the new analysis is to give Asia a more precise position in this history. This panel of historians, whose expertise extends from imperial and modern China to the Ottoman Empire and medieval Europe, seeks to set new benchmarks for evaluating the impact of Yersinia pestis on Asia.
Luesink begins the panel by going back to the laboratory research in Harbin that helped categorize the disease in the early twentieth century and produce scientific data to convince the global scientific community about how the plague moved from animal hosts to humans. Varlık builds on her recent book on plague in the Ottoman Empire to compare outbreaks there with elsewhere in Asia in order to complicate the conventional division between the Second and Third Pandemics. Brook will then step back and lay out the challenges for scholars who seek to link historical epidemics in China to a global history of Yersinia pestis in the absence of paleogenetic analysis from archaeological materials, in order to complicate, yet build on, the work of the early plague fighters a century ago. Green, the pre-eminent global historian of the plague, will discuss the findings of these papers in relation to the most recent developments in plague science and plague historiography.