An ancient disease, tuberculosis experienced a major upsurge in Western Europe in the nineteenth century, corresponding with increasing industrialization and urbanization. Poor air quality and cramped living conditions increased susceptibility to the disease. Tuberculosis also had a significant impact on European culture. In this respect, the modern career of the disease can be divided into two eras: the first associated with artistic romanticism and the idealized image of the beautiful and brilliant consumptive, the second, following the germ theory of disease, linking tuberculosis with social fears of poverty and contagion.
Reading assignment: Barnes, The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in France
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.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.