From Yellow Fever to the Zika Virus: Medicine and Bodies in Global History

History R1B.001

Fall 2017
204 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
MWF 2-3
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement.
  • In recent years, epidemics, such as the Ebola and Zika viruses, have caused global panics, affected international relations, and precipitated domestic political crises. Why did disease and the management of disease become so central to the politics of the imperial and globalized world? This course will examine how disease, medicine, and public health have shaped empires and global politics over the past three hundred years. Our readings will take us from the eighteenth-century Caribbean to British-colonized India in the mid-nineteenth century to present-day humanitarian medical organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders. Key questions we will pose throughout the semester will include: How did fears of diseases shape historical imaginations about the Global South? How were scientific ideas and technologies developed, tested, and contested outside of Europe? How did that scientific knowledge, developed in the colonial world, come to shape the Global North? And, has the promise of health become an accepted right of all peoples? This course focuses on developing the fundamental skills of a liberal arts education: reading critically and writing persuasively. The course will also serve as an introduction to the components of historical thinking: change over time, causality, context, and contingency.