How Epidemics Determined The Course of History
The arc of history has usually been ascribed to the will of great personalities playing out on the canvas of economics, politics and (“by other means”) war. However, there are other players on the field. Epidemics of deadly disease arise unexpectedly from a changing historical environment and the resulting pestilence unpredictably and sometimes dramatically alters history.
This colloquy will explore the emergence and impact of infectious disease in the course of history. We will read about and discuss five well studied historical epidemics: (1) Rats! – Black Death of Europe, how it appeared and changed the Middle Ages; (2) Cows! – Small Pox and the collapse of the native population and culture in the European exploration and settlement of the Americas; (3) Mosquitoes! – Malaria and the slave trade, slave uprisings and westward expansion; (4) Water! – Cholera in London and the birth of the science of public health; (5) Birds and Pigs! – “Spanish” Influenza of 1918, the forgotten pandemic of history. The study of this interesting history may naturally stimulate speculation on the specter of future pestilence of pandemic scale in the course of human events.
Richard Jacoby, M.D. is from Colorado and spends summer and fall in Blue Hill. Although he trained as a physician he does not admit to any professional knowledge of infectious disease.
Andrew Miller is an aquatic biologist who spent the majority of his career at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi, studying endangered and invasive species and environmental impacts of water resource projects. After retiring, he taught Biology at Thomas University, Thomasville, GA. He is a Deer Isle summer resident.
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