On the 13th of November 2020, the Renaissance Society of America, in conjunction with Fordham University, hosted on a symposium, “Plagues, Pandemics, and Outbreaks of Disease in History”, including a series of presentations focused on pedagogical strategies related to the topic of disease in Early Modern History. As part of this pedagogy roundtable, Rachel Podd developed a variety of materials suitable for educators in secondary or higher education; these materials use the current pandemic, COVID-19, as a teaching tool and analytical lens for the study of historical pandemics and, more specifically, of the Black Death of the fourteenth century. Conceived of as a unit within a larger survey course on premodern European history and intended for students and instructors with little to no exposure to the study of pandemics, these pedagogical materials guide learners through the variety of ways pandemics can alter a society’s function, including social, religious and economic upheaval; students will explore ideas of economic transformation, social differentiation and targeting, and transformations in rituals of death and dying, among other topics as they work through the materials for five classes, each thematically oriented around a single “confrontation”. Through close reading of a multiplicity of written sources, including Boccaccio’s Decameron, and analysis of visual materials including manuscript illuminations of plague and photo essays on the impact of COVID-19, learners will ultimately be able to identify areas of continuity and rupture between two pandemics. Further details regarding the materials, including syllabi, activity sheets, and an orientation video, may be found in the .pdf file below.

Presentation Date

Fall 11-13-2020




Plague, Black Death, Covid-19, Syllabus, Education Resources for Secondary School


History | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medieval History | Renaissance Studies

Teaching the Black Death during COVID-19



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