Next webinar 21 October at 1600 CET

Please join us for our next webinar – contact if you need a Zoom link.

From Cholera to COVID19: Continuity and Change in Iran’s Pandemic Experience.

Amir A. Afkhami will present an overview of pandemic cholera’s seminal role in the emergence and development of modernity in Iran during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries including cholera’s transformative impact on the country’s governance and changing perspectives on medicine, disease, and public health.  And the continuity of these historic and political determinants in Tehran’s public health policy against the current COVID19 pandemic.

Amir A. Afkhami, MD, PhD, DFAPA is an associate professor with joint appointments in psychiatry, global health, and history at the George Washington University. He is also the clerkship director and director of medical student education at the George Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and recipient of the APA’s Roeske Award for Excellence in Medical Student Education. He is the author of A Modern Contagion: Imperialism and Public Health in Iran’s Age of Cholera (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019). Previously, he served on the legislative staff of US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as an RWJF Health Policy Fellow, and has led a number of international capacity building initiatives in conflict zones including  the U.S. State Department’s Iraq Mental Health Initiative to rebuild Iraq’s mental health delivery capabilities.

Video from 7 October webinar + other links

Watch the latest webinar here:

You can read more about some of the referenced research here:

Plague in seventeenth-century Europe and the decline of Italy: an epidemiological hypothesis

A survival analysis of the last great European plagues: The case of Nonantola (Northern Italy) in 1630

Epidemics, Inequality and Poverty in Preindustrial and Early Industrial Times

And catch up on other past webinars here:

October 14 webinar canceled

Due to unexpected circumstances, the webinar with Lianne Tripp will not be held. We hope to reschedule it in the future.

October 7 Webinar

Contact if you need a link to our Thursday’s webinar 16:00-17:00 (CET).

Guido Alfani, Bocconi University, will present:

“Unravelling the Mysteries of Seventeenth-Century Plagues: The Contribution of Micro-Demographic Approaches”

Of all the major pandemics of the past, those which have been caused by plague have attracted the greatest attention. And yet, most studies focused on the big picture, looking at the overall demographic, economic and social impact of plagues – and not even of all plagues, but especially of the main pandemic of medieval and early modern times: the Black Death of 1347-52. For such an early period, the available sources somehow restrict the possibility of gaining insights into the epidemiological (and social) mechanisms that allowed Yersinia Pestis to cause what remains the worst pandemic in European history, with an overall mortality rate of about 50% in the continent and in the broader Mediterranean area. As a consequence of this, many aspects of this pandemic remain mysterious, including possibly the main one: how exactly could plague kill such a large share of the population? Arguably, looking at the last great European plagues of the seventeenth century, which in the South of the continent led to mortality rates not very far from the Black Death, offers insights into the inner workings of all plague epidemics of medieval and early modern times. This, because for the seventeenth century a greater variety of historical sources is available, which allow to proceed to micro-demographic analyses of a kind that would be impossible for earlier events. Although studies of this kind remain rare, also due to the substantial investment in data collection from archival sources that they require, they are already leading to a significant change in the way we think of past plagues, and they seem to hold the promise to one day solve some long-standing historical mysteries.

Guido Alfani is Professor of Economic History at Bocconi University, Milan (Italy). He is also an Affiliated Scholar of the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, New York (U.S.). An economic and social historian and an historical demographer, he published extensively on inequality and social mobility in the long run, on the history of epidemics (especially of plague) and of famines, and on systems of social alliance. Recent works include The Lion’s Share. Inequality and the Rise of the Fiscal State in Preindustrial Europe (2019, with Matteo Di Tullio) and Famine in European History (2017, with Cormac Ó Gráda). During 2012-16 he was the Principal Investigator of the project EINITE-Economic Inequality across Italy and Europe, 1300-1800 (, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), and from 2017 he is the Principal Investigator of a second ERC project, SMITE-Social Mobility and Inequality across Italy and Europe 1300-1800.

Video from Sept 30 webinar

The video from Thursday’s webinar is now available. Watch Howard Phillips’ talk here:

Here are links to the performances discussed in the video:

From the talk: South African composer Philip Miller’s arrangement of the song, “Influenza(1918)” written by South African choral composer Reuben T. Caluza in response to the “Spanish Flu” pandemic. The project raises funds to assist singers and musicians who are currently unable to earn money during the COVID 19 Lockdown.

From Siddharth Chandra during Q&A:

A revival/adaptation of a book that was written over 100 years ago in the form of a play intended to educate the public about dos and don’ts during a pandemic. Acknowledgments to: Michigan State University (Asian Studies Center), University of Michigan (Center for Southeast Asian Studies), and the American Institute for Indonesian Studies, as well as Javanese dhalang (puppet master) Ki Purbo Asmoro and his group and Kathryn (Kitsie) Emerson for co-organizing the event and providing the real-time translation.

Next PANSOC Webinar

Contact if you need a link for the webinar on September 30.

Howard Phillips, University of Cape Town will present “The Silence of the Survivors: Why Did Survivors of the ‘Spanish’ Flu in South Africa Not Talk about the Epidemic?”

To dissect the label ‘forgotten’ which is as inaccurately applied across the board to the great influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 in South Africa as the label ‘Spanish’, this paper will draw a clear distinction between two categories of survivor, viz. institutions and individuals. In the case of institutions like the state, the military, the professions and faith-based communities, their silence stemmed mainly from a deliberate wish not to memorialise what was for them a comprehensive rout as they failed, by and large, to meet the needs of those dependent on them for protection or succour. On the other hand, the long silence of individuals about their experiences in the pandemic was, in the main, not the result of active suppression of memories but more a consequence of a reluctance to actively revive distressing memories of a doleful and frightening period of their lives. That they had not deliberately buried such memories in amnesia is made clear by the readiness with which, sixty years later—by when the pain of such memories had eased—over 170 of them willingly shared their graphic recollections of the pandemic in interviews with the author. Drawing on these almost unique recollections, this paper seeks to construct why, when and how their silence turned into speaking, thereby adding important dimensions to one-dimensional concepts of both silence and survivors.

New webinar video links

Have you missed any of our recent webinars? Have you tried to watch the videos only to get error messages? You’re in luck! The recordings of past webinars have been moved over to Google Drive. You can find the new links here.

March 18: Siddharth Chandra, Michigan State University, USA: “Demographic impacts of the 1918 influenza pandemic.”

Part 1

Part 2 :

March 25: Lone Simonsen, Roskilde University, Denmark: “The First Year of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

April 15: Rick J. Mourits, International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam, the Netherlands: “Occupational characteristics and spatial inequalities in mortality during 1918-9 influenza pandemic in the Netherlands.”

April 22: Lisa Sattenspiel, University of Missouri, USA: “Comparing COVID-19 and the 1918 flu in rural vs. urban counties of Missouri.”

April 29: Taylor Paskoff University of Missouri, USA: “Determinants of post-1918 influenza pandemic tuberculosis mortality in Newfoundland.”

May 7: Sushma Dahal & Gerardo Chowell-Puente, Georgia State University, USA: “Comparative analysis of excess mortality patterns during pandemics in Arizona and Mexico.”

May 20: Jessica Dimka, Oslo Metropolitan University: “Disability, Institutionalization, and the 1918 Flu Pandemic: From Historical Records to Simulation Models.”

August 19: Elizabeth Wrigley-Field (University of Minnesota) & Martin Eiermann (University of Berkeley): “Racial Disparities in Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in United States Cities.”

September 9: Ida Milne, Carlow College: “Forgetting and Remembering the Great Flu: Collecting and Shaping Narratives.”

September 16: Mathias Mølbak Ingholt, Roskilde University, Denmark: “Occupational Characteristics and Spatial Differences During an Intermittent Fever Epidemic in Early 19th Century Denmark.”

September 23: Mary Sheehan, University of Melbourne: “Women and the Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Melbourne, Australia, in 1919.”

September 30: Howard Phillips, University of Cape Town: “The Silence of the Survivors: Why Did Survivors of the ‘Spanish’ Flu in South Africa Not Talk about the Epidemic?”

October 7: Guido Alfani, Bocconi University: “Unravelling the Mysteries of Seventeenth-Century Plagues: The Contribution of Micro-Demographic Approaches.”