publication . Article . 2021

Epidemics before microbiology:stories from the plague in 1711 and cholera in 1853 in Copenhagen

Adam Bencard;
Open Access English
  • Published: 01 Apr 2021
  • Country: Denmark
Amongst the many spiraling effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic has been an intense interest in finding historical frames of reference for our current predicament. Past epidemics, from the Plague to the Spanish Flu, have been brought back to the public consciousness, both to search for instructive patterns and lessons, and perhaps also as a way to cope with uncertainties and anxieties; a reminder that we have been here before, facing down an unknown disease. This paper unfolds two examples of such narratives of epidemic disease before the advent of microbiology, both in Copenhagen, Denmark: The plague in 1711 and cholera in 1853. It does so in order to query how past societies inquired into the origins epidemic disease and how they used their medical and other knowledge tools to construct theories of the disease and its patterns. Ultimately, these two histories serve as reminders that any history of epidemic disease is also a history of societies.
Fields of Science and Technology classification (FOS)
03 medical and health sciences, 0301 basic medicine, 0302 clinical medicine, 030220 oncology & carcinogenesis, 030304 developmental biology
free text keywords: Letter To The Editor, Letter To The Editors, Microbiology (medical), General Medicine, Immunology and Allergy, Pathology and Forensic Medicine, Microbiology, Disease, Consciousness, media_common.quotation_subject, media_common, Cholera, medicine.disease, medicine, Construct (philosophy), Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Plague (disease), Narrative, Pandemic, History
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