When Historians Go Bananas

(Photo from Getty Images)


If you’re a conservative of a certain age, it’s almost impossible you haven’t heard some version of the joke about the New York Times (or Washington Post) covering an impending extinction-causing asteroid impact: “World Ending Tomorrow; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”

Well, here’s a BBC story on how the Black Death, aka the Great Pestilence, aka the Great Mortality, hit women of color hardest.

Researchers at the Museum of London conducted a study which, in the words of the BBC, “found there were significantly higher proportions of people of colour and those of Black African descent in plague burials compared to non-plague burials.”   

I mean, don’t get me wrong. This is actually interesting. A lot of folks understandably assume there were no people of African descent in places like Britain until relatively recently. That’s not true

But let me offer just a little bit of skepticism. The study is based on the remains of 145 individuals from a total of three cemeteries. And, according to the researchers, the disproportionate share of black women demonstrates the “devastating effects” of “premodern structural racism.”  

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