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Plagues and Pestilence

   2020    Medicine
COVID-19 is far from the first pandemic to wreak havoc in the world. A long line of infectious diseases have devastated and in some cases destroyed entire societies. Almost all of them started in animals and made the jump to humans. The Black Death spread across Europe and Asia in the 14th century leaving millions dead in its wake. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, European colonists brought smallpox to the Americas, the Pacific region and to Australia. In Europe, the 17th century saw a series of major epidemics. And at the end of the First World War, more people died of the Spanish flu than on the battlefield.
This documentary examines the causes of these epidemics - whether it be lack of hygiene, interaction with animals, overcrowding, or the growth of cities - and how people travelling helped to spread disease and promote pandemics. It also sheds a light on the impact these infectious diseases have had on politics and societal change. Over the centuries, scientists managed to develop treatments and medicines to help control or even eradicate infectious diseases. Virologists are facing that task again with the coronavirus, as the world frantically searches for ways to overcome a pandemic which threatens our modern way of life.

The Black Death

   2023    Medicine
In an enthralling documentary, Dan Snow and archaeologist Raksha Dave delve into the catastrophic impact of the Black Death on Britain 700 years ago, a pandemic that extinguished around half of the population, or three million people. The duo embarks on a journey to trace the origins and merciless spread of the plague, starting from its arrival on Britain's South coast in June 1348, through the bustling trade routes that brought the disease to Melcombe Regis, Dorset. Their investigation takes them to various hotspots of the outbreak, including the Old Operating Theatre in London and Wildwood Animal Sanctuary in Kent, where they explore the role of rats in dispersing the bubonic plague. Through dramatic reconstructions and visits to places like Nottingham University's biomedical laboratories, they uncover the rapid spread and deadly impact of the plague, offering a month-by-month account of how it ravaged the country, decimating cities, towns, and villages alike.
The documentary not only showcases the horrific symptoms and desperate attempts at cures through brutal medical practices of the time but also leverages cutting-edge research to explain why the Black Death remains the deadliest pandemic in history. The personal stories of victims, from princes to paupers, are brought to light, revealing the indiscriminate nature of the disease. Dan's visit to Canterbury Cathedral and Raksha's investigation into the recent discovery of mass graves beneath a tranquil London square underline the widespread desperation and devastation. Their journey through the history of the Black Death, culminating in the discovery of its indiscriminate toll and the unveiling of mass graves in London, not only sheds light on the darkest chapters of British history but also ignites a profound understanding of the tragedy, making a compelling case for why this documentary is a must-watch for anyone interested in the profound impacts of pandemics on human society.
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