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Epidemics and Pandemics

HSR Supplement 33 (2021) - Epidemics and Pandemics – the Historical Perspective (ed. Jörg Vögele, Luisa Rittershaus & Katharina Schuler)

Epidemics and pandemics have always accompanied mankind and have had lasting effects on the development of societies far beyond their demographic and epidemiologic impact. They acted as catalysts for already existing developments and functioned as a stress test for the collective. In this way, societies can be analyzed under epidemic crisis conditions as if under a magnifying glass and recurring patterns can be identified. In this sense, the study and analysis of past epidemics and pandemics might not only be of interest for a historical specialist audience, but also contribute to our understanding of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

This HSR Supplement presents interdisciplinary contributions by an international field of scholars. Focusing on various epidemics and pandemics in history and using a broad range of methodological approaches, these contributions give insight into the various dimensions of epidemics and pandemics, ranging from aspects of social inequalities, politics, scientific discourse, general behavior, and even their impact on art. The epidemiologic impact of epidemics – including the case-specific mortality of COVID-19 – within the general epidemiologic development is discussed, as well as public health strategies or the effect of vaccination campaigns, and of course the role of their opponents.

COVID-19 and other infectious diseases are threatening our health. The world economy, global mobility, and mass tourism quickly turn these health risks into global risks. For the successful control of future pandemics, it might therefore be necessary not only to monitor them by global institutions such as the World Health Organization, but also to develop common strategies to combat disease successfully. For, as the historical perspective clearly reveals: After the epidemic, as at all times, is also before the epidemic!