Dan Snow's History Hit

Dancing Mania

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Episode notes

In the summer of 1518, one of the most bizarre afflictions in history struck the city of Strasburg; dancing mania. This epidemic of dancing spread, almost like a plague, through the population with many hundreds of people dancing wildly and seemingly uncontrollably often to the point of collapse and even death. Perhaps, even stranger is that the outbreak in Strasbourg is far from the only recorded incidence of this phenomenon. But what caused it? To help delve into this fascinating subject Dan is joined by Dr John Waller, Associate Professor of the History of Medicine and author of A Time to Dance, a Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518. John explains the atmosphere of fear and tension in Strasbourg in which the dancing mania took hold and how the power of superstition and belief can take the human mind and body in almost unbelievable directions.

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