The Black Death
Spring 2019 ~ Alternating Wednesdays
May 15 - June 26, 2019 ~ 6:00-7:30 p.m.

“Oh happy people of the future, who have not known these miseries
and perchance will class our testimony with the fables.”
Francesco Petrarca


Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 1:00 PM EDT
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 1:00 PM EDT

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University Club of Albany 
141 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12210

Driving Directions 


Mimi Fahy 
University Club of Albany 
(518) 463-1151 

View Full Syllabus

with links to online readings and videos


Attend one or all four - whatever your schedule allows!

The University Club of Albany Foundation, with the support of Humanities New York, is pleased to present a series of talks on The Black Death with author and historian Giacomo Calabria beginning Wednesday, May 15.  The talks will take place on alternate Wednesdays through June 26 at the National Register-listed University Club of Albany, 141 Washington Avenue at Dove Street, from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

The Black Death, also known as the Great Plague, the Black Plague, or the Plague, was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. The bacterium Yersinia pestis, which results in several forms of plague, is believed to have been the cause.

This series invites participants to examine and discuss the fascinating history of the bubonic plague and its appearances throughout world history. Attendees will examine primary and secondary documents ranging from books and letters to poetry, music, artwork, and modern medical research. Participants in all four sessions will gain a confident understanding of the bubonic plague, its symptoms and prevention, and the enormous imprint the Black Death left on culture, commerce, and the world today. The program is designed to be interactive and engage individuals of all backgrounds.

The program will run as follows:

  • May 15: The Plague through history
  • May 29: The Plague in Europe
  • June 12: The Black Death in Literature, Art, and Music
  • June 26: The Black Death and History

Cost for participation in this series is $12 per session, or $40 for all four. This event is presented by the University Club of Albany Foundation, Inc. and one need not be a member of the University Club to attend. RSVP with the buttons on this page or call 518-463-1151 to reserve your seat.

SELECT TEXT:  (for in-class readings)

  • The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time. John Kelly (Harper Perennial) 2006.

All other documents in the syllabus can be found for free online through web searches.

RECOMMENDED:  (for supplemental/further research)


Name: Giacomo Calabria

About the Presenter:

For a dozen years, Calabria has taught aspects of history, literature, and the arts.  He has lectured on Machiavellian political psychology at New York University, on William Shakespeare at the Mark Twain House & Museum, on Abraham Lincoln at the New York State Museum, and on narrative medicine at Albany Medical College.  He is leading several reading and discussion programs in and around the Capital Region as a scholar for Humanities New York.

Calabria’s published works (under the pen-name Jacopo della Quercia) include two novels:

  • License to Quill (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015); and
  • The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014).

Other published writings include:

  • A Machiavellian Discourse on Game of Thrones,” in Game of Thrones vs. History (Wiley, 2017);
  • “6 Myths About The US Constitution Too Many People Believe” (Cracked, 2016); and
  •  “Abraham Lincoln’s Steampunk Presidency” (Slate Magazine, 2014).

Calabria’s writings, which he says are aimed at making scholarly research accessible and enjoyable for all audiences, have appeared in publications ranging from Readers Digest to The New York Observer to the Sociedad Tolkien Española Noticias (Spanish Tolkien Society News).


Cost for participation in this series is $12 per session, or $40 for all four.  The series is presented by the University Club of Albany Foundation, Inc. with support from Humanities New York and one need not be a member of the University Club to attend. Call the University Club at 518-463-1151 or click below to reserve your seat.

Register Now! 

The University Club of Albany Foundation was formed to recognize and maintain the unique historic and architectural significance of the University Club building and property, its neighborhood and the city of Albany, where it has been located since its inception in 1901.