Smallpox Through Time


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1.Face of a Pharaoh
1045 BC

An exploration of the origins of smallpox from the ancient world into the early modern era. (3.75 mins)

2.Arsenic and Old Lace
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1562-1620 next video 2/13next

iconSecondary Resources

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1. What is smallpox?
Smallpox is a highly contagious and often fatal... Read more
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2. Infection and death
Infection spread from person to person by inhalation... Read more
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3. The origins of smallpox
Most likely it evolved from a virus affecting animals... Read more
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4. Smallpox in the classical world
Classical writers describe epidemics... Read more
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5. Smallpox arrives in Europe
We don't know exactly when smallpox reached Europe, but... Read more

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iconLocation details


The module was shot at the British Museum, in London's Bloomsbury, the largest and most comprehensive museum of human history in the world. We were privileged enough to have access early in the morning, before the public arrived, and filmed in the Sculpture Gallery.


The Museum houses seven million objects - from which the curator of the Museum, Neil MacGregor, recently chose a hundred for his magisterial 'History of the World' which is accessible as a podcast from the BBC. And the BBC have a 'History of the World' timeline, accessible here.

iconOur Sponsor: The Wellcome Trust

Free resource

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charity dedicated to achieving improvements in human and animal health.

Timelines: "Smallpox through Time" was entirely funded with through a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Award. We are very grateful for the Trust's support in the making of this resource.

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