Find thousands of books, manuscripts, visual materials and unpublished archives from our collections, many of them with free online access.

Return of the black death.

Brooks, Tim.
  • Videos

About this work


This programme is about the plague which struck Britain in 1349; it is described as the biggest catastrophe ever to hit Britain. Skeletons have been discovered by archaeologists which were buried at the time during construction of Crossrail in the City. Dr Tim Brooks from Public Health England based at Porton Down talks about the threat. There is currently an outbreak in Madagascar. Edward III was on the throne when the plague or Black Death struck. Dr Ian Mortimer, historian, explains how seriously the threat of the plague was taken. Jay Carver, in charge of archaeology during Crossrail, discovers the skeletons under Charterhouse Square in London. All the bodies had been sealed under a layer of clay. Don Walker, Museum of London Archaeology comments on the cosmopolitan origins of the people; their teeth reveal their original place of birth. A historian and author, Dr Barney Sloane discusses his theory regarding how many people died as a result of the plague. Sloane explains how analysing the wills of the plague victims has been helpful in predicting this; the plague lasted 9 months and by extrapolatong this data, he proposes that about 60% died. The skeletons reveal evidence of malnutrition and other disease. John of Reading, a monk who witnessed the Black Death; he wrote about the famine which came as part of climate change. Using modern geophysics, the organisation of the dead in Charterhouse Square, is thought to reveal whether this is plague cemetary. By extracting DNA from the teeth of one of the victims. They discover that the Black Death and contemporary plague are the same and haven't changed. Orwell in Suffolk experienced an epidemic 100 years ago - this was pneumonic plague which was spread by bloody sputum. In the wills of the plague victims, it's clear that the plague although started by rats was spread quickly amongst families pneumonically.


UK : Channel 4, 2014.

Physical description

1 DVD (46:39 min) : sound, color, PAL

Copyright note

True North Productions Ltd


Broadcast on 6 April, 2014

Creator/production credits

Written and directed by Kenny Scott.



  • English

Permanent link