Of Pathogens and Humans. A Cultural History of the Policies on Epidemics in the Nineteenth Century

In the nineteenth century, epidemics reached, for the first time in history, all inhabited continents. Globally spreading pathogens were an unintended side effect of a growing flow of people, animals and goods across state borders, imperial spaces and continents. “Of pathogens and humans” is an ongoing research project that analyzes reactions to increasingly mobile diseases in the American and British Empires from the 1850s to the end of the First World War. It studies practices as well as ideas guiding the policies on epidemics, thereby exploring a hybrid area at the intersection of various political fields, such as colonial, foreign and economic policies, questions of labor migration and public health. Focussing on selected hubs in both empires, where conditions for the mobility of diseases concentrated, the project asks to what extent contemporaries understood epidemics as a consequence of a growing interdependence and which practical implication this had.

Andrea Wiegeshoff is Assistant Professor in Modern History at Marburg University (Germany) and currently also a Visiting Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Her main research interests lie in the fields of global, transnational and international history. Her first book focused on the West German Foreign Office and its diplomats during the 1950s and 1960s. In her current research project, she traces reactions and responses to epidemics in the American and British Empires from the 1850s to the end of World War I.