Home » Departments and Centres » History and Civilization » Research & Teaching » Seminars » 2020-2021 2nd term » Contagion: a corona‐history. What the coronavirus tells us in terms of global history of science, medicine and knowledge

Contagion: Pandemics and the global history of science, medicine and knowledge

Research seminar

Organised by Prof. Giancarlo Casale and Prof. Stéphane Van Damme 
Registration code: HEC-RS-CONPAN-20

  • Monday 8 February (11:00‐18:00) Sala del Consiglio
  • Friday 12 February (9:00‐18:00) Sala del Consiglio
  • Monday 15 February (11:00‐18:00) Sala del Consiglio

Starts on 8 February 2021
Admin. Assistant: Alba Parrini

Seminar description

The current global health crisis is, in many ways, the culmination of a much longer history of unbridled globalization. Using our social and cultural experience of the past year, this seminar proposes to re-examine the concepts, practices and scientific institutions that have been mobilized by over the course of this longer, global history to make the phenomenon of “contagion” intelligible and, ideally, controllable. In part, it will present these different approaches as an introduction to various historical methodologies (ranging from historical epistemology to the global histories of medical expertise), in addition to showing their implementation in various global socio-political and cultural contexts (not only in Europe, but also in the Ottoman Empire, India, China or Japan). Finally, it aims to open a more general discussion regarding the potential interdisciplinary approaches to epidemics at the crossroads of economics, anthropology, sociology and political science. The seminar will cover a long period from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century.



8 February 2021 (11.00 - 13.00) - Session 1: Contagion, Epidemics and Ideas 

  • Samuel Cohn, « Plague Disputes : Challenges of the ‘Universals’ » book chapter in Cohn, Cultures of Plague : Medical Thinking at the End of the Renaissance (Oxford, online resource).
  • Aurelien Robert, « Contagion morale et transmission des maladies : histoire d’un chiasme (xiiie-xixe siècle) », Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, 21 | 2011.
  • Adrien MINARD et Aurélien ROBERT, « Évolution microbienne et histoire humaine. Entretien avec Jared Diamond », Tracés. Revue de Sciences humaines, 21 | 2011.

8 February 2021 (14.00 - 16.00) - Session 2: “New Diseases” and the Circulation of Medical Knowledge in the Ottoman Empire

Special Presentation by Akif Ercihan Yerlioğlu

  • Valentina Pugliano, “Pharmacy, Testing, and the Language of Truth in Renaissance Italy, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Volume 91, Number 2, Summer 2017, pp. 233-273.
  • Harold Cook, “Markets and Cultures: Medical Specifics and the Reconfiguration of the Body in Early Modern Europe,” Transactions of the RHS 21 (2011), pp. 123–45.
  • Lloyd Stevenson, “’New Diseases’ in the Seventeenth Century,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 39/1 (Jan-Feb 1965), 1-21.

8 February 2021 (16.00 - 18.00) - Session 3: Quarantines

  • Mark Harrison, Contagion: How Commerce has Spread Disease (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), chap. 3 “The evils of quarantine” and chap. 4 “Quarantine and the empire of free trade”, pp.50-106.
  • Birsen Bulmus, Plague, Quarantines and Geopolitics in the Ottoman Empire (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), chap. 5.

12 February 2021 (09.00 - 13.00) - Session 4 and 5: Colonial Pandemics 

  • Hugh Cagle, Assembling the tropics: Science and Medicine in the Portuguese Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Chap. 2: The Coast of Africa, 27-58.
  • Michael Zeheter, Epidemics, Empire and Environments: Cholera in Madras and Quebec City. 1818-1913 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), Part II, 101-161.
  • Projit Mukharjee, “Contagious nationalism: Contagion and the actualization of Nation”, in Nationalizing the Body: the medical market, Print and Daktari Medicine (London: Anthem Press, 2009) chap. 3, 111-136.

12 February 2021 (14.00 - 16.00) - Session 6: Public Health and Cities, with Lavinia Maddaluno

  • Henderson, John, “‘Filth is the Mother of Corruption’ Plague, the Poor, and the Environment in Early Modern Florence”, in eds. Lukas Engelmann, John Henderson and Christos Lynteris, Plague and the City, London and New York: Routledge, 2019, 69-90.
  • Carole Rawcliffe, Claire Weeda (eds), Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), pp.11-38.
  • Nukhet Varlik, Plague and Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean World, “Chapter 8: The State of the Plague: Politics of the Body in the Making of the Ottoman State,” 248-291.

12 February 2021 (16.00 - 18.00) - Session 7: Public Health in China

Special Presentation by Martha Hanson, Johns Hopkins University

  • Shigehisa Kuriyama, “Epidemics, Weather and Contagion in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” Lawrence Conrad and Dominik Wujastyk, eds., Contagion: Perspectives from Pre-Modern Societies (Burlington: Ashgate, 2010), 3-21.
  • Marta Hanson, “Conceptual Blind Spots, Media Blindfolds: The Case of SARS and Traditional Chinese Medicine,” in Angela Ki Che Leung and Charlotte Furth, eds, Health an Hygiene in Chinese East Asia: Policies in the Long Twentieth Century (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010), 228-254.
  • Angela Ki Che Leung, “The Evolution of the idea of Chuantan Contagion in Imperial China,” Angela Ki Che Leung and Charlotte Furth, eds, Health an Hygiene in Chinese East Asia: Policies in the Long Twentieth Century (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010), 25-50.

15 February 2021 (11.00 - 13.00) - Session 8: Zoonosis and Epizootics: Trepassing Human and Non-Human boundaries 

  • Karl Appuhn, “Ecologies of Beef: Eighteenth-Century Epizootics and the Environmental History of Early Modern Europe,” Environmental History 15 (April 2010): 268–287.
  • Brett Walker, “Animals and the Intimacy of History,” in Andrew Isenberg (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History (Oxford University Press, 2018), online resource.
  • Faruk Tabak, The Waning of the Mediterranean, “Chap 4, reversal in the fortunes of the plains”, 189-210.
  • Bihari Mukharji, “Cat and Mouse: Animal Technologies, Trans-imperial Networks and Public Health from Below, British India, c. 1907–1918,” Social History of Medicine Vol. 31, No. 3 pp. 510–532.

15 February 2021 (14.00 - 16.00) - Session 9

Special Presentation by Paul-Arthur Tortosa.

(Title and Readings TBA).

15 February 2021 (16.00 - 18.00) - Session 10: Big History/Black Death

  • Green, Monica H. “Climate and Disease in Medieval Eurasia,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, ed. David Ludden (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), published online June 2018.
  • Schmid, Boris V., Ulf Büntgen, W. Ryan Easterday, Christian Ginzler, Lars Walløe, Barbara Bramanti, and Nils Chr. Stenseth Schmid, Boris V., Ulf Büntgen, W. Ryan Easterday, Christian Ginzler, Lars Walløe, Barbara Bramanti, and Nils Chr. Stenseth. “Climate-Driven Introductions of the Black Death and Successive Plague Reintroductions into Europe,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112 (2015): 3020-25.
  • Campbell, Bruce. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the Late Medieval World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), Chap 1, 1-29.



Page last updated on 05 February 2021