Disease in History
In a country where most people have not grown up with the threat of devastating epidemic disease, it is easy to forget what it was like to live without modern advances in medicine and vaccination. “Disease in History” merges the discipline of history with medicine, investigating the impact of disease on human history beginning with the Black Plague and ending in the modern day with global epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and Zika. Students will be encouraged to make connections between the understanding of disease, fear of disease, and how disease manipulates and is manipulated by human agency. Students will study excerpts of medieval and early modern texts that deal with disease, as well as modern-day representations in movies and shows, examining human reactions to and representations of deadly disease. Disease can change the way we think and act, in turn, changing history. For students with a STEM or pre-med focus they will have the option to delve into the accounts of historical epidemics and identify scientifically what may have been the culprit. For other students, projects will focus on understanding the disease and its impacts in a particular time and place.
Course instructor, Tara Malanga’s research focuses on the decimation of the native population of present-day Mexico in the wake of the Spanish conquest. The native populations were ravaged by wave after wave of deadly disease, sometimes killing 30% to 40% of a town’s population at a time. Her work focuses on understanding the native Nahua perspective of these epidemics and what it was like to contemplate disease, death, and the afterlife while upwards of 90% of the population died over the course of a century. Additionally, as a graduate student, Tara Malanga was an intern at Johnson & Johnson, where she worked closely with their chief historian and archivist to research and write copy for the Museum that the company has since built in New Brunswick.
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