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HIST.3900-301: Epidemics in History

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plague doctor figure wearing long robe, brimmed hat  and a birds beak maskThe study of epidemics provides a privileged angle to understand wider social issues. With the experience of COVID in the background, we will examine historical epidemics and discuss issues like

  • transmission and containment
  • quarantines
  • lock hospitals
  • vaccination and resistance
  • animal vectors 
  • epidemic mysteries
  • scientific debates
  • social inequalities.

Case studies will include AIDS in New York and urban Brazil, Avian Flu in China, Leprosy in Hawaii, Syphilis in Europe, Kuru in New Guinea, Smallpox in India, the Plague, Spanish flu, etc.

Adding to the conventional historical and anthropological literature, the course will also include films, websites, podcasts, and literary fiction that address epidemics and their impact.

Based on Paul Fürst's circa 1656 copper engraving of plague doctor
(Dr. Schnabel of Rome). Photo by Dv8stees. CC  BY  SA 4.0

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