Special Course offered in the Fall 2022 for AUAF students.
This course explores the history of epidemic diseases from the plague of Justinian in the sixth century through to the Covid-19 pandemic of the early twenty-first century. Some of the issues that will be explored over the course of the semester include: the history of the theories of disease and causation from spirit possession in the ancient world to Hippocrates’s humoral theory to the miasma and contagion theories of the early modern era to the development of germ theory in the nineteenth century; the impact of various contagious diseases on societies, empires, and nations from the ancient world through to the early twentieth century; the development of the medical sciences of bacteriology and epidemiology in the later half of the 1800s and early decades of the 1900s; the development of tropical medicine and its relationship to the history of imperialism; the genre of plague literature from the ‘Black Death’ of the Middle Ages through to contemporary works of fiction; the development of public health measures and agencies since the Middle Ages; and the historical impact of major infectious disease outbreaks.
The specific diseases and epidemics that will be explored include: the three pandemics of the bubonic plague (the age of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, the ‘Black Death’ or ‘Great Dying’ of the Middle Ages, and the plague pandemic of the late 1800s and early 1900s), smallpox, malaria, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, the swine and avian flus of the late 1900s, the SARS pandemic of 2003, and the COVID-19 pandemic of the early twenty-first century. During this course we will also examine the ways in which societal assumptions about health and illness often affect the course of an epidemic. We also will examine the historic roles played by nurses, physicians, public health workers, research scientists, politicians, as well as patients during an epidemic/pandemic.