Plague and the City

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a conference


Perhaps more than any other disease, bubonic plague has been historically and epidemiologically entangled with the urban environment. Still, even after its genetic identification, its mode of transmission and persistence in the city, its evolving forms remains subject to debate across the humanities and the life sciences. More often than not, understandings of this interrelation are informed by Medieval and Early Modern plague narratives and by colonial representations of urban and housing forms in the course of the Third Plague Pandemic. This conference aims to bring together social scientists, historians, historical geographers, urbanists and epidemiologists to discuss and disentangle the interrelation between bubonic plague (Yersinia pestis) and the urban environment in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Key issues addressed during the conference consist of the following:

Urban and housing forms as catalysts in the transmission and persistence of plague; the problematisation of urban and housing forms as miasmatic or bacteriological sources of plague; plague-prone urban and housing forms in terms of materials, design and crowding; notions and images of plague-prone and plague-resistant urban and housing forms; colonial and postcolonial narratives and images of plague-enabling forms of habitation.
Practices and representations of anti-plague urban measures and policies, (e.g. quarantine, redesign, torching, demolition); the relation of anti-plague urban measures and policies to notions and images of contagion, pollution and contamination in the city; dynamics and tensions of urban and housing reforms aimed at plague containment and prevention in pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial contexts.
Mapping plague in the urban environment; urban planning visualisation methods and its impact on plague-mapping; uses of urban plague-mapping in historical epidemiology
Period5 Dec 20146 Dec 2014
Event typeConference
LocationCambridge, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational