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Infectious Historians

96 EpisodesProduced by InfectiousHistoriansWebsite

Covering infectious diseases through history from plague to COVID-19.

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Episode 95 - New Research on the Source of the Black Death with Maria Spyrou and Phil Slavin

July 28th, 2022


Maria Spyrou (University of Tübingen) and Phil Slavin (University of Stirling) join Merle and Lee to discuss their recent Nature publication on the …

Episode 94 - Epidemic Empire and Colonialism with Anjuli Raza Kolb

July 15th, 2022


Anjuli Raza Kolb (University of Toronto) joins Merle and Lee to discuss “Epidemic Empire”, her recent book on the history behind the metaphor of the …

Episode 92 - Tropical Disease & Medicine with Suman Seth

June 10th, 2022


Suman Seth []  joins Merle and Lee to talk about his work on medicine in the British colonies during the 18th …

Episode 91 - The Mexican Church and Disease in the 16th century with Jennifer Hughes

May 31st, 2022


Jennifer Hughes joins Merle and Lee to discuss her work on empire, society and church in 16th century Mexico. After Jennifer sets up the conversation with some background, the discussion focuses on the growth of the …

Episode 90 - Public Health Labs in History and during Covid with Claas Kirchhelle and Samantha Vanderslott

May 12th, 2022


Claas Kirchhelle (University College Dublin) and Samantha Vanderslott (Oxford University) talk to Merle and Lee about the development and history of …

Episode 89 - Infectious Historians’ 2nd Anniversary!

April 14th, 2022


Merle and Lee meet in person at Princeton University, where they both attended the first in person conference for over two years. The short episode begins with some reflections on Covid and its effects now that things …

Episode 88 - Immigrants and Quarantine at Israel’s Founding with Rhona Seidelman

April 1st, 2022


Rhona Seidelman (Oklahoma University) talks to Merle and Lee about how the newly founded state of Israel quarantined immigrants at Shaar Ha’aliya. …

Episode 87 - Pasteur’s Empire with Aro Velmet

March 14th, 2022


Aro Velmet (USC Dornsife) joins Merle and Lee to discuss his work on the Institut Pasteur in the context of colonial France in the late 19th century. …

Episode 86 - The Antonine Plague with Colin Elliott

February 24th, 2022


Colin Elliot (Indiana University) talks to Merle and Lee about the late second century CE Antonine Plague and the complicated ways to assess its …

Episode 85 - Racial Scripts and Pandemics with Keith Wailoo

February 11th, 2022


Keith Wailoo (Princeton University) talks to Merle and Lee about his work on racial scripts and the racialization of pandemics with a focus on Covid. …

Episode 84 - Memories and the Modern Uses of the Black Death with Ben Dodds

January 21st, 2022


Ben Dodds (Florida State University) speaks with Merle and Lee about his new book on memories, myths, and the modern uses of the Black Death over the past 200 years. He begins by discussing the emotional appeal of why …

Episode 83 - Using Historical Epidemiology during Covid with Kaspar Staub

January 7th, 2022


Kaspar Staub (University of Zurich) talks to Merle and Lee about his work in historical epidemiology and the ways in which it helps contextualize the …

Episode 82 - Animals and Disease with Rebecca Kaplan

December 21st, 2021


Rebecca Kaplan (Oklahoma State University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss some of her recent work on animals and disease. Rebecca first explains the …

Episode 81 - Archaeology, Pandemics, and Climate Change with Susanne Hakenbeck

December 3rd, 2021


Susanne Hakenbeck (University of Cambridge) joins Merle and Lee to discuss the key role of archaeology in histories of disease, pandemics, and …

Episode 80 - Spatial Disease and Covid with Graham Mooney

November 8th, 2021


Graham Mooney (Johns Hopkins University) talks to Merle and Lee about the key roles of place and space in how we understand disease in the modern …

Episode 79 - Healthcare and Immigrant Healthcare in the United States with Beatrix Hoffman

October 11th, 2021


Beatrix Hoffman (Northern Illinois University) joins the Infectious Historians to discuss the healthcare system in the United States. The …

Episode 78 - Covid in Iowa with Emily Mendenhall

October 1st, 2021


Emily Mendenhall (Georgetown University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss Covid in her hometown in northwest Iowa. The conversation begins with a …

Episode 77 - Humans, Animals and the Environment in South Africa with Jules Skotnes-Brown

September 17th, 2021


Jules Skotnes-Brown (University of St. Andrews) joins Merle and Lee to discuss his work on humans, animals and the environment in the context of …

Episode 76 - Vermin with Lisa Sarasohn

September 5th, 2021


Lisa Sarasohn (Oregon State University) joins the Infectious Historians to discuss her forthcoming book on vermin since the 17th century. The interview begins with an overview of what vermin are - and how different …

Episode 75 - Translational Humanities with Kirsten Ostherr

August 29th, 2021


Kirsten Ostherr (Rice University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss the role of the humanities in the context of Covid, in particular in an applied …

Episode 74 - Smallpox, Inoculations, and the American Revolution with Andrew Wehrman

August 20th, 2021


Andrew Wehrman (Central Michigan University) talks to Merle and Lee about the importance of public health, especially smallpox and inoculations, …

Episode 73 - Disease Studies Reflections during Covid

August 13th, 2021


Merle and Lee have a reflective episode. The discussion begins with disease studies in academia during the pandemic in attempt to understand to what …

Episode 72 - Climate Change and the Globalization of Disease in the Early Middle Ages with Tim Newfield

August 6th, 2021


Tim Newfield (Georgetown University) talks to Merle and Lee about the connected histories of climate change and diseases that become pandemics, …

Episode 71 - Zombie Films with Todd Platts

July 30th, 2021


Todd Platts (Piedmont Virginia Community College) joins Merle and Lee to discuss his work on zombie films over the past half century. He begins by …

Episode 70 - Covid, Policy and History with Ben Trump

July 23rd, 2021


Ben Trump (US Army) joins the Infectious Historians for a wide-ranging conversation. He begins with his public health work before Covid and his path to the US Army. Ben then outlines the Covid pandemic through his …

Episode 69 - Ottoman Medicines and Disease with Miri Shefer Mossensohn

July 16th, 2021


Miri Shefer Mossensohn sits down with Merle and Lee to talk about Ottoman history of medicines and disease. She begins by discussing the broad contours of medicine and disease in the Ottoman Empire, which lasted for 600 …

Episode 68 - Persecution of minorities during the Black Death with Tzafrir Barzilay

July 9th, 2021


Tzafrir Barzilay (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) joins Merle and Lee to discuss persecution of minorities and in particular Jews before and …

Episode 67 - Plague in Bombay and Urban Ecology with Emily Webster

July 2nd, 2021


Emily Webster (University of Chicago) joins Merle and Lee to discuss the significant plague outbreaks in Bombay during the Third Plague Pandemic of the turn of the 20th century and the place of environmental history in …

Episode 66 - Early Modern Pandemics, Quantitative Research and Inequality with Daniel Curtis

June 25th, 2021


Daniel Curtis (Erasmus University Rotterdam) talks to Merle and Lee about his diverse work that touches upon multiple disease-related fields. After …

Episode 65 - Scientific Freedom, the Cold War, and Communicating Science with Audra Wolfe

June 18th, 2021


Audra Wolfe talks to Merle and Lee about her work on scientific freedom during the Cold War and how it still shapes ideas about objectivity and …

Episode 64 - Commerce, Capitalism, and the Making of Modern Medicine with Zachary Dorner

June 11th, 2021


Zachary Dorner (University of Maryland) comes on to discuss his new book, Merchants of Medicine, which discusses the role of merchants, commerce, and …

Episode 63 - How Plague was Taught during a Pandemic with Janet Kay

June 4th, 2021


Janet Kay (Princeton) returns to the Infectious Historians to discuss her promised after action report on teaching her 100 person course, The Art …

Episode 62 - Cancer with Robin Scheffler

May 28th, 2021


Robin Scheffler (MIT) joins the Infectious Historians to discuss his recent book on cancer. Robin begins the interview with a broad discussion of …

Episode 61 - Lyme Disease and Long Term Symptoms with Abigail Dumes

May 21st, 2021


Abigail Dumes (University of Michigan) sits down to talk to Merle and Lee about her anthropological work on Lyme Disease and how it has shaped ideas …

Episode 60 - Plague and Microbiology in Brazil with Matheus Duarte

May 14th, 2021


Matheus Duarte (University of St. Andrews) comes on the podcast to talk to Merle and Lee about his work on turn of the 20th century plague in Brazil …

Episode 59 - COVID Calls with Scott Knowles

May 7th, 2021


Scott Gabriel Knowles (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) joins Merle and Lee to talk about his daily show since March 2020, Covid …

Episode 58 - Carolingian Medicine with Meg Leja

April 30th, 2021


Meg Leja (SUNY Binghamton) joins Merle and Lee to discuss her work on early medieval medicine and the Carolingians. Meg begins the conversation by …

Episode 57 - Historical Epidemiology with Jim Webb

April 24th, 2021


Jim Webb (Colby College) comes on the podcast to talk to Merle and Lee about his work in historical epidemiology and how its multidisciplinary …

Episode 56 - Historical Demography of Infectious Diseases, Policy and Outreach with Svenn-Erik Mamelund

April 16th, 2021


Svenn-Erik Mamelund (OsloMet) joins Merle and Lee to discuss his work. The first part of the interview focuses on Svenn-Erik’s research as a historical demographer focusing on the 1918 influenza pandemic, and he shares …

Episode 55 - Polio in Hungary and the End of Epidemics with Dora Vargha

April 9th, 2021


Dora Vargha (University of Exeter) talks to Merle and Lee about her work on polio epidemics after World War Two in Hungary. After unpacking the basic …

Episode 54 - Alexandre Yersin with Michael Vann

April 2nd, 2021


Michael Vann (California State University, Sacramento) returns to the Infectious Historians (our first returning guest!), this time to focus on the biography of Alexandre Yersin, the Swiss-French doctor who discovered …

Episode 53 - Joshua Lederberg: Public Science and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases with Nathan Crowe

March 26th, 2021


Nathan Crowe (U. of North Carolina-Wilmington) comes on the podcast to talk about the life and career of Joshua Lederberg, a key figure in various …

Episode 52 - 1st Anniversary Episode!

March 19th, 2021


Merle and Lee celebrate a full year of Infectious Historians (52 episodes)! They reflect on the past year and the podcast, after re-listening to …

Episode 51 - Yellow Fever in New Orleans with Urmi Engineer Willoughby

March 12th, 2021


Urmi Engineer Willoughby (Pitzer College) joins the Infectious Historians to discuss Yellow Fever, with a focus on New Orleans over the course of the …

Episode 50 - Ancient Medicine and Heresy with Jessica Wright

March 5th, 2021


Jessica Wright (University of Sheffield) joins the Infectious Historians team to discuss ancient medicine. The conversation begins with a definition of ancient medicine (and a reflection upon its meaning), as well as …

Episode 49 - The Medieval Translation Movement and Late Ancient Medical Texts with John Mulhall

February 26th, 2021


John Mulhall (Harvard University) joins the Infectious Historians to talk about the famous medieval translation movement and his own work on late …

Episode 48 - Black workers in the US Military: Immune or Infectious? with Khary Polk

February 18th, 2021


Khary Polk (Amherst College) joins the Infectious Historians to talk about his recent book on African-American workers in the US military, …

Episode 47 - HIV/AIDS: Patient Zero, History, and Popular Culture with Richard McKay

February 11th, 2021


Richard McKay (University of Cambridge) talks to Merle and Lee about his work on the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a particular focus on …

Episode 46 - Ancient DNA and Paleogenetics with Stephanie Marciniak

February 4th, 2021


Stephanie Marciniak (Penn State University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss some of the fascinating developments in studying historical diseases from a scientific perspective: ancient DNA and more broadly paleogenetics. …

Episode 45 - Teaching Plagues and Pandemics with Janet Kay

January 29th, 2021


Janet Kay (Princeton University) talks to Merle and Lee for a special episode about preparing to teach her “Art & Archaeology of Plague” during …

Episode 44 - Epidemiology and Infectious Disease Models with Lukas Engelmann

January 21st, 2021


Lukas Engelmann (University of Edinburgh) joins Merle and Lee to discuss the history of epidemiology. The conversation begins by thinking about …

Episode 43 - Ebola Outbreaks in West Africa with Adia Benton

January 14th, 2021


Adia Benton (Northwestern University) talks to Merle and Lee about the West African Ebola outbreak in 2014 and why that disease in particular has …

Episode 42 - The Age of Pandemics in India and the World with Chinmay Tumbe

January 7th, 2021


Chinmay Tumbe (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad) talks to Merle and Lee about his new book, The Age of Pandemics, that reveals the story of …

Episode 41 - The Justinianic Plague and the Making of the Plague Concept

December 24th, 2020


Merle and Lee record their final episode for 2020 in which they cover a recently published article of theirs. The article, published in the American …

Episode 40 - Forgetting and Remembering the 1918 Influenza Pandemic with Guy Beiner

December 18th, 2020


Guy Beiner (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) talks to Merle and Lee about his work on the memory and forgetting of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Guy first provides background about the impact of the Influenza Pandemic …

Episode 39 - Environmental History: Past, Present, and Future with John McNeill

December 11th, 2020


John McNeill (Georgetown University) speaks with Merle and Lee about the changes to environmental and disease history over the last half century. …

Episode 38 - Animals and Epidemics with Susan Jones

December 4th, 2020


Susan Jones (University of Minnesota) talks to Merle and Lee about the role of animals in the spread of diseases and how these diseases can spill …

Episode 37 - The Local Effects of Covid in Kansas City with A.J. Herrmann

November 30th, 2020


A.J. Herrmann (Director of Policy for Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri) speaks with Merle and Lee about one of their key ideas, the …

Episode 36 - Epidemics, the Media, and Collective Memory with Katie Foss

November 19th, 2020


Katie Foss (Middle Tennessee State University) talks to Merle and Lee about her recently published book on epidemics in the media and collective …

Episode 35 - Ancient Malaria with David Pickel

November 12th, 2020


David Pickel, PhD Candidate at Stanford University and Director of Excavations, La Villa Romana di Poggio Gramignano Archaeological Project, Lugnano …

Episode 34 - Vaccinations in China with Mary Augusta Brazelton

November 9th, 2020


Mary Brazelton (University of Cambridge) joins Merle and Lee to talk about her work on vaccinations in China in the early and mid-twentieth century. Mary highlights the Chinese governments’ attempts to vaccinate its …

Episode 33 - Syphilis and Sexual Health in the United States (1890-1940) with Elliott Bowen

October 29th, 2020


Elliott Bowen (Nazarbayev University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss his work on sexual health more broadly. The conversation focuses on syphilis, a venereal disease, between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries in the …

Episode 32 - Typhoid Fever and Epidemiology in Victorian England with Jacob Steere-Williams

October 23rd, 2020


Jacob Steere-Williams (College of Charleston) discusses the role of typhoid fever in Victorian (19th century) England as a key reason for the …

Episode 31 - Indigenous Perceptions of Disease: Smallpox in Mexico with Tara Malanga

October 16th, 2020


Tara Malanga (Rutgers University) comes on the podcast to discuss her research on colonial Mexico. The conversation begins with a survey of smallpox …

Episode 30 - Smallpox, Slavery, and Vaccinations with Elise Mitchell

October 9th, 2020


Elise Mitchell (NYU) sits down to talk to Merle and Lee for the second episode of their mini-arc on vaccines and vaccinations. They discuss the …

Episode 29 - Vaccinations and anti-Vaxxers with Jim Harris

October 5th, 2020


Jim Harris (Ohio State University) joins Merle and Lee to offer an overview of the development of vaccinations since the first smallpox vaccine in the late 18th century. The discussion touches upon pre-18th century …

Episode 28: The Great Hanoi Rat Hunt with Michael Vann

September 25th, 2020


Michael Vann (California State University, Sacramento) talks to Merle and Lee about the arrival of the Third Plague Pandemic in colonial Vietnam that …

Episode 27 - Sleeping Sickness in East Africa with Mari Webel

September 17th, 2020


Mari Webel (University of Pittsburgh) discusses the impact of sleeping sickness at the turn of the 20th century in East Africa. Mari talks about the …

Episode 26 - Playing Pandemic: Infectious Diseases in Games

September 14th, 2020


Merle and Lee consider games that feature infectious diseases in multiple media. After a brief overview of types of games and references to games …

Episode 25 - Germ Theory and Popular Culture with Nancy Tomes

September 3rd, 2020


Nancy Tomes (Stony Brook) talks to Merle and Lee about how Germ Theory was developed in the second half of the 19th century and how the public learned of it through advertising and other forms of mass media. Nancy also …

Episode 24 - The Outbreak Narrative with Priscilla Wald

August 27th, 2020


Priscilla Wald (Duke University) joins Merle and Lee to discuss the “outbreak narrative” she outlined in her influential book Contagious. After defining the outbreak narrative as a common way to understand infectious …

Episode 23 - Myths and Legends about the Black Death

August 21st, 2020


Merle and Lee chat about four myths that have repeatedly circulated in popular media about the effects of the Black Death: it was an economic leveler …

Episode 22 - Virology Research Developments with Vincent Racaniello

August 13th, 2020


Vincent Racaniello (Columbia University) joins the podcast to discuss virology. The conversation includes trends and developments in virology over …

Episode 21 - Iran in the Age of Cholera with Amir Afkhami

August 6th, 2020


Amir Afkhami (George Washington University) talks to Merle and Lee about the 19th and early 20th century outbreaks of cholera in Iran. He begins with …

Episode 20 - Archaeology and Infectious Diseases with Jordan Pickett

July 30th, 2020


Jordan Pickett (University of Georgia) comes on the podcast to talk about archaeology. The first part of the interview covers archaeology, together …

Episode 19 - Plague and Contagion in the Medieval Islamic World with Justin Stearns

July 24th, 2020


Justin Stearns (NYU Abu Dhabi) talks to Merle and Lee about his research on contagion, disease, and plague in medieval Islamic thought. Their …

Episode 18 - Medicine in the Middle East, 1830-1950 with Liat Kozma

July 16th, 2020


Liat Kozma (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) speaks about medicine in the modern Middle East using a regional perspective. The conversation discusses the beginnings of modern medicine in the region, the establishment of …

Episode 17 - Resilience and Rebounding from Crises with John Haldon

July 10th, 2020


John Haldon (Princeton University) talks to Merle and Lee about how states and societies react to systemic crises through the lens of resilience studies. After an introductory discussion about the concept of resilience, …

Episode 16 - Pandemics in Film with Robert Alpert

July 2nd, 2020


Robert Alpert (Fordham and Hunter College) discusses pandemics in film as a form of popular culture. After an introduction of how to analyze film and …

Episode 15 - Diseases and Native Americans from Colonial Hawaii to Covid-19 with Seth Archer

June 26th, 2020


Seth Archer from Utah State sits down with Merle and Lee to talk about the diseases that passed through the Columbian Exchange and their impact on …

Episode 14 - The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 with Ida Milne

June 18th, 2020


Ida Milne from Carlow College joins Merle and Lee in a conversation on the 1918 influenza pandemic. Milne’s work has been instrumental in uncovering …

Episode 13 - Medieval Public Health with Guy Geltner and Janna Coomans

June 15th, 2020


Guy Geltner and Janna Coomans from the University of Amsterdam and members of the project Premodern Healthscaping, discuss their work that offers new insights into what public health was like in medieval urban settings. …

Episode 12 - Fact, Fiction, or Both? A Discourse Approach to Historical Epidemics with Chris de Wet

June 4th, 2020


Chris de Wet (University of South Africa) discusses his work on discourse analysis, and how we can use it today to better our understanding of the …

Episode 11 - Tuberculosis in the Ancient World

May 28th, 2020


Merle and Lee speak with Julia Simons, a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, about her research on tuberculosis in ancient Greece and …

Episode 10 - The Third Pandemic

May 21st, 2020


Merle and Lee talk to Christos Lynteris, a medical anthropologist, on the Third Pandemic of Plague and its impact across the globe between 1894 and …

Episode 9 - Public Health in the mid-20th Century

May 10th, 2020


Merle and Lee talk to Thomas Zimmer, a scholar of global public health, on how the nations of the world developed public health after World War Two …

Episode 8 - Studying Historical Epidemics

May 1st, 2020


Merle and Lee discuss how historical research is conducted today, in an episode aimed at a general audience. How do scholars decide to study a topic? …

Episode 7 - Links between Environmental Justice and COVID-19

April 24th, 2020


Merle and Lee discuss how the environment we live in has an impact on how the Coronavirus Pandemic spreads with Fushcia Hoover. They talk about how existing structural problems have made the pandemic worse in …

Episode 6 - COVID-19 and Inequality in the United States today

April 24th, 2020


Michelle Smirnova, a sociologist (University of Missouri, Kansas City), joins Merle and Lee to discuss some of the present-day effects of COVID-19 in …

Episode 5 - The Black Death, Part 2: Central Asia

April 16th, 2020


Merle and Lee talk to Phil Slavin about the evidence for the impact of the Black Death in Central Asia before it arrived more famously in Europe.

Episode 4 - The Black Death

April 8th, 2020


Quarantine in many countries around the world continues, preventing many from celebrating Passover, the first of three major holidays in April …

Episode 3 – Quarantine in the Past & Social Distancing Today

April 2nd, 2020


Many of us are self-isolating and social distancing at home during the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic in a modern form of quarantine. Merle and Lee …

Episode 2 - The Justinianic Plague

April 1st, 2020


Merle and Lee discuss the late antique Justinianic Plague (c. 541-750), also known as the first plague pandemic. They cover the current consensus about plague first, and then offer their reinterpretation, together with …

Episode 1 – Plagues in Human History

March 30th, 2020


Merle and Lee talk about the scientific and medical background to the plague describing the bacterium, Yersinia pestis,  and how it sickens and kills humans. They offer an overview of the 3 historical plague pandemics, …

Episode 0 - Introduction

March 27th, 2020


As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread, in this short episode hosts Merle Eisenberg and Lee Mordechai discuss the reasons for launching a new podcast now, begin to consider how historical diseases …

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