Reading: Living with the Plague: Life through the Lens of Material Culture and Artifacts


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Living with the Plague: Life through the Lens of Material Culture and Artifacts


Kelly Lee Cooper

Virginia Tech, US
About Kelly

Kelly Cooper is a junior University Honors student from Midlothian, Virginia. A History major, she will also receive two minors, one in Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the other in Art History. She serves as an officer for Phi Alpha Theta/History Club and as an editor for the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review. She has worked at both a Tudor Museum, Agecroft Hall, and with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

She loves researching British history from the medieval period to the Industrial Revolution.  She is also greatly captivated by Colonial and Revolutionary America, especially New England colonial history. Her research often focuses on material culture and the architectural history of these time periods.

She would like to thank Dr. Daniel Thorp for his wonderful encouragement and assistance on this research project. She would also like to thank Mr. James Wilson from Midlothian High School for first instilling her interest in medieval and early modern history.


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Historical research needs to better incorporate material objects and artifacts which help shape one’s understanding of history. Written accounts do not always show the complete picture of life during the bubonic plague; in fact bones and artifacts add further chapters to Western Europe’s story of the plague. From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, few societies in Europe escaped the devastation of the disease. As a result of plague outbreaks, social changes occurred as people attempted to cope with the epidemic. Many studies reflect how society was affected by the bubonic plague. However, no comprehensive research explores how material objects and archaeological remains reflect the social changes in Europe. Therefore, I first conducted research by delving into first-hand accounts of the period and scholarly investigation describing the significance of primary documents within the larger history of the epidemic. Next, I examined museum collections and published archaeological findings to determine the relationship between first-hand accounts and material objects, and what they reveal about social life during outbreaks of the bubonic plague. In conclusion, the material objects and archaeological finds emphatically told their own tales of life during the outbreaks, and create a better understanding of social changes during the bubonic plague.

How to Cite: Cooper, K.L., 2016. Living with the Plague: Life through the Lens of Material Culture and Artifacts. Philologia, 8, p.None. DOI:
Published on 14 Apr 2016.


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