Epidemics, or high-impact infectious diseases, have had an historical impact equal to that of wars, revolutions and economic crises. This course looks at the various ways in which these diseases have affected societies in Europe and North America from 1600 to the present. Contrary to optimistic mid-twentieth-century predictions, epidemic diseases still pose a major threat to human well-being. Diseases will be considered not only in their biological effects, but also as social, political and cultural phenomena. Attention will therefore be given to the different forms of human response to epidemics, from medical science to artistic representations.
This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.
As one of the world's great universities, Yale traces its roots back to the early 1640s when colonial clergyman sought to establish a school in order to continue the tradition of European education within the Americas. Yale has now grown to educate over 11,000 students from over 100 countries on a 310-acre campus in New Haven, Connecticut. Within the school's 260 buildings are over 2,000 undergraduate programs in 65 departments taught by a distinguished faculty. As Academic Earth's first partner school, Yale has been a leader within the space of OpenCourseWare by consistently delivering on its esteemed mission to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn.