The history of the rat and the wider rodent family in relation to bubonic plague suggests multiple ways in which different research disciplines can contribute to the understanding of mortality, morbidity, and epidemics in the past: For instance, demographic approaches can can clarify longterm trends in, and disruptions to, patterns of mortality; the study of psychological responses to disease since 1850 can lend insights into past disease behaviors; and archaeological discoveries and the still-developing technology of ancient dna analysis can help in the determination of causes and effects. As the link between the black rat and bubonic plague shows, without the collaboration of interdisciplinary methods, our understanding would surely suffer. The history of plague and the Black Death encompasses far more than the involvement of rats, but the enduring sylvatic reservoirs of plague infection that the rats and their many rodent cousins constituted in the past, and still constitute, should not be blithely discounted.


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pp. 171-185
Launched on MUSE
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