BSc Microbiology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
From Cholera to COVID-19: A Global History of Epidemics

Course unit fact file
Unit code HSTM20031
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


With the recent experiences of the Coronavirus outbreak, students will learn how historically infectious diseases have spread across the world, how people, health systems and governments have reacted to these and what lessons can be learnt from global pandemics in the past

This unit covers the global history of epidemics, starting from the global pandemic of Cholera in the nineteenth century across Asia, Africa, Europe and America to the contemporary experiences of COVID-19 and Ebola. It brings together insights from history, medicine, public health, bacteriology, and quarantine.

You will investigate why, in the contemporary world, some countries and communities are relatively free from epidemics while others continue to suffer from them. You will identify the larger structural factors, such as the economy, trade, labour movements, gender and class that lead to epidemics and see that disease is often caused by global inequality and poverty.


Drawing from the contemporary experiences of COVID-19 this unit looks back into the history of global pandemics and enables you to understand how and why different countries have responded to infectious disease outbreaks in different ways.

It also helps students to understand the wider and deeper social, economic, political and cultural histories that lead to disease and mortalities.

You will also analyse the experiences of communities and individuals living in the time of pandemics.

This unit can also be taken as a 20 credit version.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Feedback methods

Students may ask questions at any time during lectures and seminars. Teaching staff will answer specific queries by email and during office hours, and will provide contact details in the course handbook or at lectures. All submitted coursework will be returned with annotations and an assessment sheet explaining the mark awarded.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Harriet Palfreyman Unit coordinator

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