Medical Historian Frank Snowden on Lessons from Past Pandemics

at 9:00 AM
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

People wear face masks as they wait in an emergency food distribution line outside the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ on April 14, 2020, in Los Angeles, California, during the coronavirus pandemic.  (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Back in the 14th century, the bubonic plague affected every part of society, from the economy to religion, to the arts.  And because communities had to reorganize in order  to fight the disease, the pandemic also played a role in centralizing authority, and ultimately helped shape the modern state. Medical historian Frank Snowden writes about the cultural shifts that have been caused by infectious disease in his recent book “Epidemics and Society”. We'll talk with Snowden about where the novel coronavirus stands in history, and what societal changes the pandemic could bring.


Frank Snowden, professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine, Yale University; author, "Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present"