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Abstract

Efforts to understand the differential mortality caused by plague must account for many factors, including human immune responses. In this essay we are particularly interested in those people who were exposed to the Yersinia pestis pathogen during the Black Death, but who had differing fates—survival or death—that could depend on which individuals (once infected) were able to mount an appropriate immune response as a result of biological, environmental, and social factors. The proposed model suggests that historians of the medieval world could make a significant contribution to the study of human health, and especially the role of human immunology in past environments and societies, by helping to reconstruct these conditions.