As the world battles Covid-19, it will interest us to know that India has been in the frontline of similar battles with epidemic diseases in the past.
120 years ago, cholera, smallpox, plague, and malaria accounted for 24 out of 40 deaths per 1000 people in South Asia. If these four diseases did not exist, lifespans would be similar between Britain and India then. By 1940, deaths from the four diseases fell below 14 per 1000. Why were these diseases so deadly around 1900, and why did they become weak after that?
Epidemic history raises questions like the ones the world tries to answer now. The battle to contain an infective disease needs answering three questions above all.
History also tells us that each episode is unique because bacteria, virus or parasites have their own biographies, social practices change or they matter differently, and every episode exposes healthcare to a new challenge.
Dr. Tirthankar Roy, Professor in Economic History at the London School of Economics (LSE)
Professor Roy is a foremost economic historian of India who teaches South Asia and Global History at the LSE and is the author of “India in the World Economy from Antiquity to Present”, besides other renowned books and articles. He is credited with writing the fifth volume of the official history of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). His work on economic history tries to answer 3 questions. Is there a long-term pattern in Indian Capitalism? When did the big breaks occur in that pattern? Does history help us understand how capitalism works?
Professor Roy’s research interests lie in the areas of History and Development of South Asia, Global History, Empires, Environmental History. His recent publications include Law & the Economy in Colonial India (with Anand V. Swamy, University of Chicago Press, 2016).
Pandemics and History – the lecturer will discuss some of the key themes, and most well-researched episodes from world history (like the Black Death and the Spanish flu) – after a 20 minute Q&A, the class will discuss 4 papers that will be pre-circulated, especially what is being explained and with what evidence.
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