This course explores the cultural, social, scientific, and political dimensions of epidemic disease through an examination of selected episodes from plagues in antiquity to AIDS, Ebola, influenza, malaria, and, of course, Covid-19 in our time. We approach the problem of understanding the role of disease in human history from two different, but interrelated, perspectives: an ecological/evolutionary perspective, making use of a combination of environmental, biological, and cultural factors to help explain the origin and spread of epidemics, and a cultural/social history perspective, emphasizing the interaction of cultural values, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, medical practice, economics, and politics in shaping perceptions of the nature, causes, cures, and significance of various diseases. Topics include disease and health in the ancient world, the origins and consequences of the Black Death, cholera in 19th century New York, influenza 1918, disease and imperialism, the origins of AIDS, and a global history of malaria. Readings range from Thucydides and the Hippocratic writings to Boccaccio, Defoe, and Orwell, including, where possible, nonwestern sources, along with a wide variety of recent works that discuss the historical, social, and biological aspects of epidemic disease in different cultural and geographical settings.
Section 002 for Environmental Studies majors only.
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)