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45 votes
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‘Avoid sleeping on your back’ & ‘breathe in toilet smells’ were seen as precautions against the Black Death. Why did doctors think these would work?

This cannot be answered comprehensively here. But a few key points might be revealed. The precautions mentioned in the question are by far not the only ones that were given, just mere examples. At ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
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45 votes
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How were smallpox vaccines enforced in the US?

After a brief period of federal control in the early 1800s, administration of the smallpox vaccine was mainly left to the states. Because of that, there is more than a century of different laws, ...
Giter's user avatar
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43 votes

Why did epidemic disease spread only from Europe to America and not both ways in the Columbian Exchange?

It is not true that the exchange was one-sided - e.g., a major hypothesis for the origin of Syphilis is that it was brought from Americas: The history of syphilis has been well studied, but the exact ...
Roger V.'s user avatar
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38 votes
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Did germophobia exist in classical antiquity?

What is germaphobia? It's an obsession, it "is a pathological fear of contamination and germs. " If we look for something similar in antiquity we just need to turn that onto its feet: this ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
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31 votes
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Did Henry V’s archers at Agincourt fight with no pants / breeches on because of dysentery?

tl; dr At least some of the archers who fought at the Battle of Agincourt almost were almost certainly suffering from dysentery contracted at Harfleur. However, most of the worst affected had been ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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31 votes
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Why did epidemic disease spread only from Europe to America and not both ways in the Columbian Exchange?

@Roger V.'s answer is a good one and I've upvoted it. There are some other additional plausible reasons worth adding: First (and probably most importantly), mankind evolved in the Old World and this ...
Mark Olson's user avatar
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28 votes

Has a plague ever caused a civilization to collapse?

When Europeans discovered Americas they also imported plagues. These plagues were one factor of the collapse of the pre-columbian cultures. http://www.examiner.com/article/apocalypic-mysterious-...
knut's user avatar
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24 votes

Can it be justified that an economic contraction of 11.3% is "the largest fall for more than 300 years"?

(disclaimer: I am not an economist, but I think I have got my head around this) Two questions: is the claim correct on the basis of the data, and how plausible are those estimates? The GDP estimates ...
Andrew is gone's user avatar
18 votes
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What were the effects of the Black Death in the Muslim world?

SHORT ANSWER The Black Death had a similarly devastating effect on the Muslim world as it did in Europe. Although we are less sure of the mortality rate compared to Europe, it was probably a little ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
17 votes
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Have any historical pandemics actually originated in the United States?

Contrary to the name, which is simply a matter of wartime secrecy resulting in it not being publicized before arriving in Spain, the Spanish Flu most likely originated in or near Kansas in spring of ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
15 votes

How was the Black Death stopped?

The answer to this is vast. Simply put, the mix of devastation to the population and the fact that we started to, as @noel1 put it, quarantine people helped. There is also a suspicion that that the ...
EvanM's user avatar
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14 votes

Did germophobia exist in classical antiquity?

Obsessive compulsive disorders do not exist in a vacuum - you have to put them in their context. Mysophobia is stereotyped as excessively washing hands today, but it is not intrinsically about hand ...
Semaphore's user avatar
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13 votes
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What was the estimated malaria death toll for US Forces during World War II?

TL/ DR The figure of 60,000 fatalities due to malaria seems ridiculously high. The figures published by the Medical Departments of the various United States armed services in the years after the war ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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11 votes

How did England react to the arrival of the Black Death?

There were quite a few different reactions, and panic was probably the main one. People didn't understand much about disease in those days so some of what they did wouldn't make much sense to us today....
JLK's user avatar
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11 votes

Was the Native American population already decimated before settlers and conquistadors arrived in America?

Let's address the easy issue first. At the time of the Colombian Exchange, the Germ Theory of disease was still about 300 years in the future (and its acceptance more than 400). An educated European ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
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10 votes
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When was it considered fact that rats caused the Black Death?

I am not entirely sure of what you're question is but maybe this answer will clarify from a French Wiki page: Researchers working in Asia during the "Third Pandemic" identified plague vectors and the ...
user33232's user avatar
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10 votes
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Why did physicians recommend curing the "dancing plague" with more dancing?

Theories about the causes and cures of dancing mania John Waller, Dancing Plague: The Strange, True Story of an Extraordinary Illness (2009) argues that the Strasbourg dancers were exhibiting extreme ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
9 votes

What did people die of in 1665 London?

King's evil was an archaic term for scrofula, or Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis Rupture was usually a hernia, but could also be a burst blood vessel. Livergrowne was just an enlarged liver. There ...
sempaiscuba's user avatar
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9 votes
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Did the dramatic improvement in survival rates of scurvy in the Royal Navy significantly affect British port cities?

It would be very difficult to isolate the impact of the additional scurvy "survivors" given that it would be swamped by the overall growth of urban populations in Britain in the same period (thanks to ...
Steve Bird's user avatar
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9 votes

What were the effects of the Black Death in the Muslim world?

This video details how the Black plague effected Egypt with a special focus on the economy. You can skip through the first 14 minutes. The nice thing here is that this a lecture by Stuart Borsch, ...
EvanM's user avatar
  • 2,323
9 votes
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Were there efforts made in the 19th century to inoculate the natives against smallpox?

In 1803 the Balmis Expedition set sail from Spain to perform a vaccination campaign in Spanish America and China. Its final report did claim that in its three years it vaccinated about 100,000 people....
SJuan76's user avatar
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9 votes

When was the deadliest year in human history in absolute terms?

You're probably correct, it seems to be this year. To start with, our inquiry can most likely be safely restricted to the last few decades. As this graph from Wikipedia establishes, in absolute terms,...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
9 votes

When did Europeans realize Native Americans had weaker immunity to Old World diseases?

The Spanish and Portuguese noticed early in the 16th century that the native peoples of the Caribbean and South and Central America were sickly to the point of being unsuitable (in general) for slave ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar
9 votes

How were smallpox vaccines enforced in the US?

It's hard to say how reliable this source is, but it is said in an interview with a history professor who wrote a book on the matter that in some cases more definite force was used: The events of ...
against very long user names's user avatar
8 votes

What was the penalty for disobeying flu safety regulations in the 1918 epidemic?

Keep in mind that the world was at war, one of likes no one had ever seen and most of the effort was being given to support that war. So the organizations that were started a few decades before the ...
EvanM's user avatar
  • 2,323
8 votes
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Why did leaders seem to overlook diseases in their campaigns?

Probably chiefly because they didn't really know what was causing it. The germ theory is actually fairly new, and even into the 20th century was quite controversial in non-scientific circles. It wasn'...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 119k
8 votes
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When were the first deaths from the Spanish Flu Pandemic?

This is impossible to state with any certainty because: The exact path of the "Spanish" Flu virus in its early stages is unknown; and Early deaths from the virus were not recognised at the time and ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
7 votes

Is there any evidence of STD's in ancient times?

The oldest written record of STD are probably the Sumerian clay tablets. from History of venereal diseases from antiquity to the renaissance That some genital disturbances were observed and some ...
Milo Bem's user avatar
  • 271
6 votes

How was the Black Death stopped?

To paraphrase history.com the black plague just ran its course and ended by change. However, it reappeared every few generations for quite a while, and eventually, with modern sanitation, it has ...
Sunny's user avatar
  • 180
6 votes
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To what extent did the 1793 yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia influence the process of relocating the capital to Washington DC in 1800?

Not at all. The decision to create a new capital at what we now know as Washington D.C. had been taken in 1790, three years before the yellow fever in Philadelphia. There were a couple reasons why ...
Tom Au's user avatar
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