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Plague Parallels: 1348

Dr. Holly Hurlburt discusses human reaction to pathogens during the bubonic plague of 1347-1349. She tells the story of the plague by referencing the 1348 last will and testament of Dogaressa Elisabetta Dandolo as well as Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Published onJun 22, 2022
Plague Parallels: 1348


Holly S. Hurlburt, Ph.D. discusses human reaction to pathogens during The Bubonic Plague of 1347-1349. In this talk, she introduces the themes of the plague through discussion of and quoting from the 1348 last will and testament of Dogaressa Elisabeta Dandolo, which she studied while conducting her dissertation research.  Dr. Hurlburt provides background about the pre-conditions that contributed to the impact and spread of the plague in the Mediterranean through eyewitness accounts and stories, such as those gathered in Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Holly Hurlburt, Ph.D., is assistant dean of academic enrichment programs in University College and a professor of history. She is the author of two books on women in Renaissance Venice: The Dogaressa of Venice, 1200-1500: Wives and Icons (Palgrave, 2006) and The Daughter of Venice: Caterina Corner, Queen of Cyprus and Woman of the Renaissance (Yale, 2015).

Plague Parallels: 1348 (Holly S. Hurlburt)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License,



  1. Boccaccio, G., & Rebhorn, W. A. (2013). The Decameron. Ten young Florentines flee the Black Death of 1348 by escaping to a country villa overlooking the city. There they spend ten days telling each other one hundred stories. Their stories run the gamut of medieval genres--romance, tragedy, comedy and farce--and are rich with wit, earthiness and even bawdy irreverence.

  2. Aberth, J. (2005). The Black Death: The great mortality of 1348-1350 : a brief history with documents. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. A fascinating account of the phenomenon known as the Black Death, this volume offers a wealth of documentary material focused on the initial outbreak of the plague that ravaged the world in the 14th century.

  3. Findlen, Paula. “What Would Boccaccio Say about COVID-19?” The Boston Review, April 24, 2020.

  4. Knight, Christopher. “Bubonic Plague in Europe Changed Art History. Why Coronavirus Could Do the Same.” Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2020.

  5. DeWitte, Sharon. TED talk: “The Past, The Present, and the Future of the Bubonic Plague.” 

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