Not available in 2015/16
EH467      Half Unit
Epidemics: Epidemic Disease in History, 1348-2000

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Patrick Wallis


This course is available on the MA Global Studies: A European Perspective, MRes in Quantitative Economic History, MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Global History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course analyses the impact of epidemic disease on human societies and economies from the Black Death to the present. It examines arguments and evidence about epidemics' relationship to economic, social, demographic and political change - such as the role of the black death in initiating economic growth in Europe, of epidemics in allowing the conquest of the Americas, and cholera in leading to social tensions and even revolution in 19th century Europe. It will also explore the development and implementation of medical, political and social responses to epidemics. Epidemics are crises that test the capacity of societies to manage disaster and that divide communities along lines of wealth, race and blame. We will explore the characteristics of social responses to disease, the development of local and state capacities to manage crises, and the patterns of resistance that this elicited from those affected. Case studies will focus on epidemics in Europe, Central America, and Asia, but reference may also be made to the experience of other regions, in order to achieve a more global picture.


20 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

20 hours of seminars in MT. One hour of revision in the ST.

Formative coursework

Two written papers of 2,500 words during the course.

Indicative reading

P Baldwin, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930 (Cambridge, 1999); L Garrett, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance (London, 1995); W H McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (Harmondsworth, 1976); A W Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge, 1986); C Hamlin, Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick: Britain, 1800-1854 (Cambridge, 1998); S J Watts, Epidemics and History: Disease, Power, and Imperialism (New Haven, 1997); C E Rosenberg, Explaining Epidemics and Other Studies in the History of Medicine (Cambridge, 1992); D Porter (ed), The History of Public Health and the Modern State (Amsterdam, 1994); P Farmer, Infections and Inequalities (Berkeley, 1999).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills