HISTORY 376 - Epidemics: Plagues and Cultures from the Black Death to the Present
Winter 2022, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


We are in the midst of an alarming pandemic unlike anything we have ever experienced. Covid-19 is a novel viral disease, spreads widely in the community, causes frightening symptoms and has mounted a continuously disturbing death toll now two years into its course. At its inception, government officials downplayed its significance while blaming foreign countries for its perpetration. We adhered resignedly to restrictive population measures, including our own remote learning experience, that deprived us of social interaction, cultural fulfillment, and intellectual vigor. Presently, these restrictions have eased but our behavior remains divided. Some complacent citizens mistrust scientists and perceive their recommendations to mask, socially distance and vaccinate as a breach of their personal liberties, whereas others anguish at the thought that they or their loved ones remain unnecessarily vulnerable. We are unsettled by the uncertainty of the pandemic's trajectory even though biomedicine has yielded effective vaccines and promising therapies in record times. We yearn for the pandemic to subside, if not end, but when could this occur, and after what cost to individuals, society, our economy and livelihood? Covid-19 is unprecedented in our lifetime.

In this course, we look to the past to find deep historical analogues for today's pandemic. Students will explore leprosy and Black Death in medieval times, syphilis from 1492 to today, 1918 Influenza, AIDS in contemporary society, and today's emerging epidemics, including multi-drug resistant microbes (e.g., "superbugs"), Zika, and Ebola in the DRC. Students will learn to recognize recurring themes that are applicable today—the trope of fear, blaming of the outsider, the growing confidence as well as skepticism in the capacity of scientific medical experts to handle epidemic threats, and the tensions that develop between public health recommendations and personal liberties. Studying past epidemics at key historic moments will provide students with insight into the social, economic and cultural impact of each disease. It will also give them perspective, consolation, and possibly direction as they live through Covid-19 today.

Course Requirements:

Readings will stress primary source materials and lectures will provide historical context to shed light on the readings and develop key themes. There will be a midterm and final exam, along with one independent research paper.

Intended Audience:

The intended audience will be undergraduates from freshman to seniors. Anyone interested in learning more about epidemic diseases, their impact on society, and how society responds to them will be interested in taking this course.

Class Format:

Lecture and discussion


HISTORY 376 - Epidemics: Plagues and Cultures from the Black Death to the Present
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
002 (DIS)
 In Person
Th 3:00PM - 4:00PM
003 (DIS)
 In Person
Th 4:00PM - 5:00PM
004 (DIS)
 In Person
F 11:00AM - 12:00PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for HISTORY 376.001

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for HISTORY 376 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)