HIST 2830 Disease and Public Health in Global History

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Susan Guinn-Chipman

Email: susan.guinn-chipman@colorado.edu

About the Course:

This course examines the global history of health and disease from the Paleolithic to the present, with special attention paid to contagions such as typhoid fever, malaria, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, HIV, and the coronavirus.  Themes to be explored include the impact of epidemics and pandemics on social, medical, institutional, and political development and on literary, artistic, and cultural expression.

In addition to discussions and quizzes, research, and close analysis of rare medieval, early modern, and modern primary source materials (available digitally) held by Rare and Distinctive Collections, CU Boulder Libraries, form the basis for student design and co-curation of an online course exhibit.  This exhibit will highlight a global history of health, disease, and mortality.

Course Prerequisites:

There are no prerequisites for this course.  The course, however, requires extensive reading of both primary and secondary sources and polished writing at a college level.  Students are encouraged to contact the CU Boulder Writing Center for assistance with producing concise writing, free of grammatical errors.


The following learning objectives reflect the development of critical thinking skills.  For more on critical thinking and aspects of historical literacy, see the History Department’s Student Learning Objectives, available on the department website.

Students in this course will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyze the historical context, perspectives, and biases that shaped diverse visual and textual primary source documents.
  2. Assess patterns of continuity and change and evaluate the connections between past and present.
  3. Demonstrate appreciation and understanding of culturally diverse societies of a global past and present.
  4. Produce historical knowledge by analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting historical sources in context.
  5. Share ideas in discussions and collaborate in group writing assignments, learning communication skills that can be transposed beyond the course.
  6. Develop and co-curate an online class exhibit highlighting analyses of rare medieval, early modern, and modern primary source materials.

Required Reading:

The required readings form an important part of understanding the integral role played by epidemics, disease, and societal response in historical development.  Students are expected to respond to these readings as part of course quizzes and discussions.

The texts below make up much of the required course reading.  These are available both in hard copy, through the CU Book Store and online booksellers, and in hard copy and digital formats, through the CU Boulder Libraries.  Required chapters from Snowden and Bell will also be accessible in Canvas.  The ISBN numbers below will be helpful for those students planning to purchase a copy.

Bell, Dean Phillip.  Plague in the Early Modern World:  A Documentary History.  London; New York: Routledge, 2019.

  • ISBN: 9781138362499 (paperback)
  • ISBN: 978-1138362482 (hardcover)
  • ISBN: 9780429432057 (EBook)

Fenn, Elizabeth A. Pox Americana:  The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82.  New York:  Hill and Wang, 2001.

  • ISBN: 978-0809078219 (paperback)
  • ISBN: 0-8090-7820-1 (hardcover)
  • ISBN: 9781466808041 (EBook).

Snowden, Frank M.  Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019.  Selections.

  • ISBN: 978030025639-0 (paperback)
  • ISBN: 9780300192216 (hardcover)
  • ISBN: 9780300249149 (EBook)

Additional required readings including articles, book chapters, and visual and textual primary sources will be available in Canvas.

Grading (out of 700 points):

Grading is according to the points below.  Total points are then calculated by Canvas for final course grades.

Five discussions addressing readings, sources, lectures, etc.:  20 points each 100 points
Four quizzes covering readings, lectures, media, external exhibit research, etc.:  50 points each 200 points
Two primary source analyses, with research and writing covering rare, historical materials:  50 points each 100 points
Individual and co-curation of online course exhibit

–       Design, research, and text, covering two works:  200 points

–       Participation in co-curation:  100 points

300 points
Total points for course 700 points

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