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New Directions in the Study of Religious Responses to the Black Death


 Correspondence: Religion Department, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, USA. Email:


The past decade has seen the publications of numerous excellent studies on the Black Death. For the most part, however, scholars have been preoccupied with debating whether the Black Death was caused by plague or not, parallels between the first, second, and third plague pandemics, and broader historiographical questions of continuity and change. Less attention has been devoted to revisiting the religious responses of Christians, Muslims, and Jews to the natural disaster. Recent scholarship has begun to question previous paradigms in which the responses of these three communities were viewed as qualitatively different in essential characteristics such as their conception of contagion. By emphasizing the internal diversity of views within these monotheistic communities, and drawing on recently published primary sources, scholars attempting to write a nuanced comparative history of the religious responses to the Black Death will be able to avoid the misleading generalizations promoted by their predecessors.

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