When Germs Travel: Epidemics in American History

Trinity Washington University

Dr. Allen Pietrobon is an Assistant Professor and Program Chair of the Global Affairs department at Trinity Washington University. An award-winning historian and public speaker, Allen specializes in 20th-Century American history and U.S. Foreign Policy, focusing on nuclear weapons policies and Cold War diplomacy. Since 2011, he has also served as an Assistant Director of Research at the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. His latest book, Norman Cousins: Peacemaker in the Atomic Age, explores the widespread influence that prominent journalist Norman Cousins had on postwar international humanitarian aid, anti-nuclear advocacy, and Cold War diplomacy, including secret diplomatic missions he conducted behind the Iron Curtain.



As we live through a global pandemic, it is helpful to remember that this is not the first time this has happened to the United States. In fact, up until the 1960s, recurring epidemics were a regular fact of American life. This lecture will explore how American society has been affected by past epidemics and what we can learn from these experiences as we navigate our own Covid-19 crisis.

We’ll examine some of the lesser known epidemics that struck the United States over the years ranging from cholera to flu to polio and others. What impact did these diseases have on the daily life of Americans? What did we know about them at the time? We’ll compare how Europe and the United States reacted quite differently to epidemics and explore some of the medical advancements that eventually helped Americans overcome this scourge.



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