Exhibition - 'Plague! Rats in the Realm'

Currently on display

Download the exhibition PDF (3.3MB)

"Plague – also known as ‘Black Death’, ‘the pest’, and ‘oriental plague’ – is one of the most deadly diseases to have affected humans over the centuries. Caused by infection with the organism Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis), plague infects rats and is transmitted to humans by fleas."

The Exhibit

Beautifully depicted with images from the universities Rare Books collection, this exhibition explores the understandings and impact of plague since the sixth century, through to our contemporary understanding of the disease today.

Plague is one of the most deadly diseases to have affected humans over the centuries. To scientists, it is an infection caused by bacterium; to historians its three pandemics are the greatest natural disasters of all time; to artists and writers it symbolises the fragility of human life.

Plague first appeared in Europe in the sixth century during the reign of the Emperor Justinian. This first pandemic lasted for two hundred years. Three centuries later it reappeared in Europe as the ‘Black Death’ – the second pandemic which killed thousands and devastated populations across the continent until the end of the 17th century. In the mid-19th century the third pandemic caused millions of deaths in Asia and spread along Pacific trade routes to Australia. This third pandemic challenged the new science of bacteriology, which at last provided the understanding needed to control plague.


The exhibit can be found in the staff common room on the ground floor of the Anderson Stuart building - Camperdown campus - map.

NOTE: This page uses resources from the Sydney Medical School's 'Virtual Exhibitions'.