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Twelve stories to help gauge how infectious diseases have changed society.
Previous epidemics have a lot to teach us about the coronavirus and this moment in history. See our curated collection examining how infectious diseases have altered the way people live — and what this means for the future we’re currently facing.
Michael S. Rosenwald • The Washington Post
Centuries before coronavirus, plague, smallpox, yellow fever and other contagions killed hundreds of millions around the globe. A look at how pandemics have remade the world.
Chris Mackie • The Conversation
Thucydides’ account of the plague that struck Athens in 430 B.C. focuses on the social response, both of those who died and those who survived.
Annalee Newitz • The New York Times
Humanity has been surviving plagues for thousands of years, and we have managed to learn a lot along the way.
Brian Patrick O’Malley • Journal of the American Revolution
Despite hopes that future Americans would be spared from anything like Philadelphia’s yellow fever outbreak of 1793, particular incidents might remind Americans of the initial public reaction to the 1980s AIDS crisis or the 2020 coronavirus outbreak.
Amy Fleming • The Guardian
Until the mid-1800s, doctors didn’t bother washing their hands – they would go from dissecting a cadaver to delivering a child. Then a Hungarian medic made an essential, much-resisted breakthrough.
Daniela Blei • Atlas Obscura
The history of unpleasant odor, or miasma, has unexpected relevance in the time of COVID-19.
Hannah Wunsch • Nature
A heroic community effort at a daring hospital saved lives, led to today’s ventilators and revolutionized medicine — it holds lessons for our times.
Elizabeth Yuko • CityLab
Cholera and tuberculosis outbreaks transformed the design and technology of the home bathroom. Will COVID-19 inspire a new wave of hygiene innovation?
Orhan Pamuk • The New York Times
People have always responded to epidemics by spreading rumor and false information, and portraying the disease as foreign and brought in with malicious intent.
David Remnick • The New Yorker
John M. Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” discusses what the epidemic can tell us about our current situation and the future.
Meilan Solly • Smithsonian Magazine
These letters and journals offer insights on how to record one’s thoughts amid a pandemic.
Simon Schama • Financial Times
For millennia, epidemics have tested friendships, faith and society. But, amid the horror there is hope.