COVID-19 Teaching Resources and Materials for Historical Research

Note from the organizers: Here is a set of readings compiled in collaboration with the AAHM and participants in the webinar, “Pandemic, Creating a Usable Past.” Some were mentioned by panelists, while others represent the panelists’ work on related topics. The list is not meant to be exhaustive; please direct suggestions to the contact page of the AAHM.

Session 1 | Explaining Epidemics: The Past in the Present (Introduction and Welcome)

Rosenberg, Charles E. The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987 [1962]). (available online)

Tomes, Nancy. The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998). (available online)

Session 2 | Epidemics and Urban Centers: Different Cities, Disparate Experiences

Markel, Howard. Quarantine!: East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). (available online

Raw data (about twenty-five thousand different documents, newspapers, federal papers, state papers, and so on) at

Markel, Howard. “Will the Largest Quarantine in History Just Make Things Worse?” The New York Times, January 27, 2020, sec. Opinion. (available online

Hammonds, Evelynn M. Childhood’s Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria In New York City, 1880-1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

Interview with Evelynn M. Hammonds: Chotiner, Isaac. “How Racism is Shaping the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The New Yorker, May 7, 2020. (available online).

Beardsley, Edward H. A History of Neglect: Health Care for Blacks and Mill Workers In the Twentieth-Century South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987).

  1. Jack Geiger oral history interview, March 2013. (at Library of Congress)

Sivaramakrishnan, Kavita. As the World Ages: Rethinking a Demographic Crisis. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2018.

Mitman, Gregg and Sarita Siegel. In the Shadow of Ebola: An Intimate Portrait of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia in 2014 (Alchemy Films, 2015). (website)

Mwambari, David. “The pandemic can be a catalyst for decolonisation in Africa.” Al Jazeera, April 15, 2020, sec. Opinion. (available online

Session 3 | Battling Epidemics: Historian/Heath Care Practitioners Reflect on their Experiences on the Front Lines of Care

Fairman, Julie A. “Nurse practitioners need to be ‘in’.” The Hill, April 15, 2020. (available online)

Maxwell, William. They Came Like Swallows (New York: Harper, 1937).

Porter, Katherine Anne. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels (New York: Modern Library, 1939).

Greene, Jeremy A. “As Telemedicine Surges, Will Community Health Suffer?” Boston Review, April 13, 2020. (available online)

Session 4 | Epidemic Responses: Civil Liberties and Public Health Politics

Fissell, Mary E. “Pandemics come and go. The way people respond to them barely changes.” The Washington Post, May 7, 2020. (available online)

Critical Conversations: COVID-19 and the Structures of Crisis in the Black Community (video online)

Olivarius, Kathryn. “Immunity, Capital, and Power in Antebellum New Orleans.” The American Historical Review 124, no.2 (April 2019): 425–455.

Olivarius, Kathryn. “The Dangerous History of Immunoprivilege.” The New York Times, April 12, 2020. (available online)

Session 5 | Uncertain Knowledge in Epidemics: How Crises Spur New Therapies, Surveillance Practices, and Dubious Theories

Podolsky, Scott H. “Serotherapy for Ebola: Back to the Future.” Annals of Internal Medicine 161, no. 10 (November 2014): 742-743.

Hansen, Bert. “The Story of Serum Therapy.” Distillations, April 28, 2020. (available online)

Wailoo, Keith A., and Stephen Pemberton. The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation In Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, and Sickle Cell Disease (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Wald, Priscilla. Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).

Session 6 | After Epidemics: The Challenge of Reinventing Public Health

Greenough, Paul. “ Intimidation, Coercion and Resistance in the Final Stages of the South Asian Smallpox Eradication Campaign, 1973-1975.” Social Science & Medicine 41, no. 5 (September 1995): 633-645.

Bhattacharya, Sanjoy. “Reflections on the eradication of smallpox.” The Lancet 375, no. 9726 (May 2010): 1602-1603.

Birn,  Anne-Emanuelle and Elizabeth Fee. “The Rockefeller Foundation and the international health agenda.” The Lancet 381, no. 9878 (May 2013): 1618-1619.

“Polio Across the Iron Curtain: A Conversation with Dora Vargha.” Consortium for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. (available online)

Tomes, Nancy. “Medicare for All in the Age of Coronavirus: A History of US Health Care Debates.” AHA Perspectives on History, Apr 24, 2020. (available online)

Closing Discussion | Pandemic Legacies and the Future of Health

Mitter, Rana. “Coronavirus: why hygiene fears strike at the heart of modern China.” South China Morning Post, February 9, 2020. (available online)

Raz, Mical. “Yes, covid-19 treatment must be free for all. But that’s not enough.” The Washington Post, April 1, 2020, sec. Made by History. (available online)

Additional suggested readings

Honigsbaum, Mark. “Spanish Influenza Redux: Revisiting the Mother of All Pandemics.” The Lancet 391, no. 10139 (June 23, 2018): 2492–95.

Chowkwanyun, Merlin, and Adolph L. Reed. “Racial Health Disparities and Covid-19 — Caution and Context.” New England Journal of Medicine (online May 6, 2020).

Reverby, Susan. “Prisons and public health: Gov. Cuomo must let out thousands or many will die.” New York Daily News, March 27, 2020, sec. Opinion. (available online)

Landau, Susan et al. “The Importance of Equity in Contact Tracing.” Lawfare, May 1, 2020. (available online)

Archer, Seth. “Precedents for a Pandemic: Reflections on Disease and Indigenous Communities.” AHA Perspectives on History, May 26, 2020. (available online)

Bichell, Rae Ellen. “Iconic Plague Images Are Often Not What They Seem.” NPR, August 18, 2017, sec. Goats and Soda. (available online)

Online resources

A bibliography of historians’ responses to COVID-19:  A bibliography compiled by the American Historian Society. To contribute additional items use this form:

Humanities Coronavirus Syllabus from Northeastern University

Resources for Teaching Online from H-Net

Coronavirus Primary Sources from Melissa Lo

Pandemics Resources Around the Web from the History of Science Society

Global Health Web Archive from the National Library of Medicine

A Journal of the Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19 from Arizona State University

Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics from Harvard University

Resources for understanding the history of nursing and healthcare in the context of the pandemic from the Bates Center, University of Pennsylvania

Documenting Your Community’s Experience of COVID-19: A Resource List

Documenting COVID-19

Wellcome Trust Contagious Cities Project

99% Invisible: Masking for a Friend

Anya Plutinski Pandemic Syllabus

Medieval Academy of America, “The Mother of All Pandemics: The State of Black Death Research in the Era of Covid-19,” May 15, 2020, webinar and bibliography.