Epidemics & Indian History

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10 Hour Online (Live) Certification Program

Date: 13th to 16th August 2020

Time: Thursday 13th August & Friday 14th August (5:00 PM – 7:30 PM IST), Saturday 15th August & Sunday 16th August (2:00 PM – 4:30 PM IST)

Faculty – 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).

You can view Professor Roy’s CV here

Learning Outcomes:

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.

  1. Scientific – Question of aetiology or origin. Development of vaccine or treatment depends on this knowledge.
  2. Sociological – social activities like migration, choice of food and water, control over property, settlements, even religion and politics, acted to turn isolated cases of illness into an epidemic. What were these practices?
  3. What do public and private healthcare do once there is enough knowledge of aetiology and transmission? Why do some actions work, and some don’t?

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.

Duration: 10 Hours

Eligibility: Open to students, faculty, research scholars and working professionals from diverse backgrounds

Fees: INR 2,490 + GST

Course Structure:

The sessions will be organized as open discussions and will be interspersed with short mini-lectures. A list of papers & book chapters will be circulated a week prior to the course, which will have to be read by the participants prior to the class.

In 4 sessions of 150 minutes each, the class will discuss the large scholarship on cholera, plague, smallpox, and malaria to understand the changing relationship between disease and Indian society. The aim of these sessions is not to explain the COVID experience better but to discover how history sheds light on the dynamics of epidemics and to find out what questions we should be asking when facing a natural disaster of this kind. At the end of the session, the class will have a good knowledge of these questions, and a knowledge of what literature to read on the history of epidemics.

The lectures will cover the following topics –

  1. 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 minutes Q and A, the class will discuss 4 papers that will be pre-circulated, especially what is being explained and with what evidence.
  2. Cholera in India: In the same format, the lecturer will present an overview of the field, the class will discuss 4 pre-circulated papers or book chapters, all available online.
  3. Plague in India: Ditto
  4. Smallpox and malaria: The first 100 minutes of the session will discuss the scholarship in the same format as before. In the last 40-45 minutes, the lecturer will collect thoughts on origin, transmission, mitigation based on the previous sessions.

Registrations for this certificate program are now closed. Thank you for your interest. By registering in the form below, you will jump the queue for our second intake for this program which will begin shortly. We will also be posting a few lecture take-aways, reading materials and other interesting content from this course. Follow us on our social media platforms (Facebook & Instagram) and our website to know more.

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