CCGL9003 Global Issues

Contagions: Global Histories of Disease

[This course is under the thematic clusters of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’ and ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

How have epidemics shaped the modern world? In what ways has globalization contributed to the spread of disease? And how can historical awareness help us meet the challenges of the present and reconsider the relationship between the local and the global? This course addresses these critical issues from a number of perspectives, mapping the intertwined histories of globalization and infection from fifteenth-century European conquests of the “New World” to the present. The course explores the economic, political and social processes that have contributed to the rise of global epidemics, including: early modern transoceanic exchanges, the slave trade to the Western hemisphere, global conflicts and epidemics, imperial responses to contagion, the rise of global health agencies after WWII, and emergent twenty-first-century animal-to-human infections such as SARS and avian flu in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa. Within this broad scope, the course engages with a number of fundamental questions: How and under what conditions did the “unification of the world by disease” come about? What challenges to global security does this infectious interconnectedness pose? What potential might globalization offer in helping to contain epidemics? How, and with what consequences, has the past shaped the way we think about contagious outbreaks today?

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze how epidemics have shaped the modern world.
  2. Demonstrate an awareness of globalization’s role in facilitating the spread of disease.
  3. Reflect upon and critically consider the value of historical knowledge in meeting current global health challenges.
  4. Use a historically-informed approach to critically examine contemporary ideas about contagion.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Fieldwork / Visits 4
Reading / Self-study 34
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 20
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Continual assessment and task-focused activities 35
Online portfolio 15
Course project 50

Required Reading

Course textbook:

  • Peckham, R. (2016). Epidemics in modern Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Extracts from:

  • Bashford, A., & Hooker, C. (2001). Contagion: Historical and cultural studies. London: Routledge.
  • Crosby, A. W. (2003). The Columbian exchange: Biological and cultural consequences of 1492 (30th anniversary ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Crossley, P. K. (2008). What is global history? Cambridge; Malden, MA: Polity.
  • Farmer, P. (1999). Infections and inequalities: The modern plagues. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Garrett, L. (1995). The coming plague: Newly emerging diseases in a world out of balance. New York: Penguin.
  • Harrison, M. (2012). Contagion: How commerce has spread disease. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Hays, J. N. (1998). The burdens of disease: Epidemics and human response in western history. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Honigsbaum, M. (2019). The pandemic century: One hundred years of panic, hysteria and hubris. London: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Le Roy Ladurie, E. (1981). A concept: The unification of the globe by disease. The mind and method of the historian (S. Reynolds & B. Reynolds, Trans.). Brighton: Harvester Press.
  • Mazlish, B., & Iriye, A. (2005). The global history reader. New York: Routledge.
  • McNeill, W. H. (1976). Plagues and peoples. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Packard, R. M. (2016). A history of global health: Interventions into other people’s lives. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Price-Smith, A. T. (2009). Contagion and chaos: Disease, ecology, and national security in the era of globalization. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Rosenberg, C. E. (1992). Explaining epidemics and other studies in the history of medicine. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wald, P. (2008). Contagious: Cultures, carriers, and the outbreak narrative. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Wolfe, N. (2011). The viral storm: The dawn of a new pandemic age. London: Allen Lane.

Recommended Reading

Extracts from:

  • Ali, S. H., & Keil, R. (2008). Networked disease: Emerging infections in the global city. Malden, MA; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Baldwin, P. (1999). Contagion and the state in Europe, 1830-1930. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Barnett, T., & Whiteside, A. (2006). AIDS in the 21st Century: Disease and globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Barry, J. M. (2005). The great influenza: The epic story of the deadliest plague in history. London: Penguin.
  • Caduff, C. (2015). The pandemic perhaps: Dramatic events in a public culture of danger. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Cook, N. D. (1998). Born to die: Disease and new world conquest, 1492-1650. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Davis, M. (2005). The monster at our door: The global threat of avian flu. New York: New Press.
  • Kaufmann, S. (2009). The new plagues: Pandemics and poverty in a globalized world. London: Haus Publishing.
  • Kunitz, S. J. (1994). Disease and social diversity: The European impact on the health of non-Europeans. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Price-Smith, A. T. (2002). The health of nations: Infectious disease, environmental change, and their effects on national security and development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Quammen, D. (2012). Spillover: Animal infections and the next human pandemic. New York: W. W. Norton.
  • Shah, N. (2001). Contagious divides: Epidemics and race in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Watts, S. J. (1997). Epidemics and history: Disease, power, and imperialism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Recommended Websites

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr R.Sinha
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7309
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr R.Sinha
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7309