DSCY10120 Contagion & Control

Academic Year 2020/2021

The explosive outbreak of COVID-19 has transformed the world we inhabit. Within months of its first report in late December 2019, SARS-CoV-2 infected millions of bodies, triggered an effective quarantine of billions of people, and wiped out trillions of dollars of market value. Like perhaps no other disease, COVID-19 has highlighted both the interconnectivity of global environments and societies and the fragility of the health systems we have put in place to control emerging disease.
But were we always so vulnerable to disease? And how did previous generations deal with emerging and existing health challenges? Contagion & Control draws on new research from across the medical humanities and sciences to introduce students to over 200 years of disease control efforts, the effects of globalisation in spreading disease landscapes and health systems across the world, and the conflicting pressures shaping current Global Health policies, research, and practice.
Students will learn how crises like COVID-19 are rooted in the fundamental changes that global disease environments and the way humans manage their health underwent over the past 200 years. During this time, population growth, mass migration, climate change, and ever faster travel connected and transformed once distinct disease environments. Biologically, once local diseases like cholera and HIV spread around the globe. Culturally, the rise of medical science in the nineteenth century replaced older humoral understandings of illness. Politically, these changes were closely associated with the rise of powerful new nation states and colonial empires, which depended on new forms of medicine to secure their hold on power. Biomedical interventions like vaccines against improved sanitation, and drug treatmentsplayed an important role in improving human and animal health. Yet the health systems these medical interventions were embedded in enabled unprecedented levels of centralised control over individuals' lives.
Understanding these tensions as part of the broader mutual evolution of societies, disease, environments, and health systems will not only improve our knowledge of the past but can also provide valuable insights for the global health challenges of the present.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students:
1) should acquire critical skills through the assessment of a range of historical and multi-disciplinary approaches (history, the social sciences, and biomedical sciences) to studying global health.
2) develop a critical understanding of the major historical changes in the nature and context of disease and health systems since c.1800.
3) enhance their analytical and presentation skills in presenting their work to peers.
4) enhance their ability to evaluate a range of primary and secondary sources

Indicative Module Content:

Topics and Themes covered include:
Of Humans and Microbes: Changing Concepts of Disease and Environment since 1800; ‘One Health’ and the interconnection of human, animal and environmental health; The White Death: The Biology and History of Tuberculosis in the Modern Era; Modernity, Globalisation, and the Spread of Disease (1835-2003); Sewers, and Sterilisation: The Rise of Public Health (1830-1930); Healthy Environments – Urban Systems and Health; Health for All? Welfare and Health Care Systems since 1800; From Prayers to Penicillin – Impacts and Limits of the Therapeutic Revolution; Moving From A Health Care ‘System’ to Caring Systems; Governance and its Discontents – International Politics, Disease, and Health since 1970.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module combines weekly online large-group lectures and small-group autonomous learning and online seminars. Weekly lectures provide overviews of individual topics, with focus upon key historical trends, debates and events. Weekly online seminar discussions focus on active / task-based learning using both secondary and primary sources related to the topic covered in the lecture. Autonomous learning is nurtured through required preparatory reading each week, and a formative and summative assignment. Key research and presentation skills are explicitly incorporated into weekly discussion forums and are assessed and advanced from the formative to the summative assignments 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: See Handbook Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: Poster Presentation: See "Handbook" and 'Assessment' Document. Week 9 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the mid-term Poster Presentation Assignment is given in writing on the returned copy. Feedback on the continuous assessment is given on during online seminars and on appointment in one-to-one online meetings.

Name Role
Professor Stephen Gordon Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Claas Kirchhelle Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Thilo Kroll Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Chiara Tedaldi Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Tues 18:00 - 18:50