Thinking Historically about Covid-19

A Project for HIST 1000 in 2020-2022
Thinking Historically about Covid-19

Thinking Historically about Covid-19

A Project for HIST 1000 in 2020-2022


This is the course website for HIST 1000: “Thinking Historically about Covid” in the 2020-2021 academic year at the University of New Haven. The purpose of this course was to help students think historically. When historians study the past, they are invariably affected by their current moment. In turn, the study of the past enables us to see the present in a new light. To prove this to yourself, look again at the image above of an outdoor barber shop in California during the 1918 influenza pandemic. How is your reaction to that image different today than it would have been in 2019? How does looking at that image affect how you think about our own Covid-19 pandemic?

To learn to think in this way, undergraduate students in HIST 1000 have studied the current Covid-19 pandemic in light of research into past pandemics of plague, cholera, influenza, and AIDS. They have shared the fruits of their new historical awareness in the articles section of this website. To access the articles simply scroll down, click the ‘Articles’ link in the navigation menu above, or select one of the following categories if you want to find articles on a particular topic:

The Human Experience

Science and Disease

The Political Economy

The Influence of Pandemics on Culture

Lockdowns and Livelihoods: Government Economic Interventions in Pandemics

It’s been over a year since the coronavirus pandemic began. Many lives have been taken by the disease, and there remains another cost seldom considered: the economic cost of the pandemic. This article explores the historical precedence for the lockdowns and measures that have thrown our economy asunder.

Prejudice and Pandemics: The Nature of the Majority

From 1348 to 1351, Jewish Communities were blamed for their “accused” role in spreading the Black Death across Europe, resulting in the persecution and burning of thousands (Cohn, Jr., 4). The Chinese Community faced mass persecution during an outbreak of the Bubonic plague in San Francisco during the early 20th …

Who Gets What? How Money and Status Dictate the Flow of Resources During Pandemics

Shortly after the AIDS crisis exploded in the U.S. in the 1980’s, experts were hard at work to develop a cure. The treatments that were created were effective, but more than that they were expensive, in the mid-nineties going for “$10,000 to $15,000 a year and needed to be taken for life,” (McMillen 113). Most Americans would be unable to foot that bill year over year, let alone a grand majority of the African population, where HIV/AIDS proves more prevalent. Eventually, the costs of drugs and treatments would be brought down to appropriate levels, and generic alternatives would arise, but not without widespread protest and activism. Even still, these generic brands would continue to be too expensive for poorer nations: 

Evolution of Government Responses to Pandemic: From the Spanish Flu to COVID-19

“It’s pretty clear that what (the rise in cases) we’re seeing is directly tied to the end of the stay-at-home order” (Stobbe). Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, individual states have set public health policy for themselves, but it has not always been that way. …

The Social Effects of Pandemics: Comparing the 1918 Flu to COVID-19

It has been a little over a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on our lives ever since. From how we work, vote in elections, and even see family and friends, our daily lives have adapted to these new circumstances. However, …

What Are One’s Moral Obligations During a Pandemic?

“…masks became a scapegoat, a symbol of government overreach, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings. All the while, thousands of Americans were dying in a deadly pandemic” (Hauser, 1).  This quote, although written seemingly in reference to the Covid-19 pandemic, is actually taken from an article about the Spanish Influenza of 1918. Mask …

How Have People Exploited Disease Outbreaks for Profit?

During difficult times, people become desperate, and are willing to do whatever it takes to survive. An example of this happening is the hoarding and price gouging of essential items at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is hardly the first time this has happened, and there are reasons …

Conspiracy Theories During Pandemics

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many theories have appeared, relating to topics like bioweapons, microchipping, and political corruption. One theory that has yet to be entirely shut down is the theory that covid-19 was actually a bioweapon created in China that accidentally leaked. Even the World Health Organization has been unable …