In this seminar for history majors we will primarily study and analyze documents, literature, and art created in response to plagues, from the Black Death to the great plague of Marseilles, in 1720-22. For centuries plague was an ever-present fear. As Daniel Defoe said, plague was a “hidden mine”, a calamity that could cross one’s path, ruin families, challenge faith, and reorder ways of understanding the world. Western Europeans reacted, and devised responses, to plagues still powerful today, even though our scientific understanding of plague does not often reinforce the rationality or utility of older plague controls. Bubonic plague appears and recedes as a human threat for reasons unknown to people in these centuries. Plague history thus allows us to examine how culture and tradition inform and shape perceptions of risk, danger, mortality, and our obligations to one another.