New Global History of Medicine reading group discusses Covid-19

reading group 3 apr 2020 ii

Co-director of the Centre, Dr Erica Charters, is leading a group of students and colleagues in a weekly reading group on global history of medicine in the context of Covid-19. Participants are calling in from various time zones.  As well as being able to talk with many students under lockdown in Oxford, the group also has one student who is under quarantine in Singapore and another in Istanbul. Erica (who is in lockdown in Texas) says, “Re-reading these scholarly works in the midst of a global disease crisis has helped me to focus more carefully, often highlighting certain key parts of scholarly analysis that I have been teaching for years but perhaps have taken for granted.”

Using the University’s platforms to share and access readings, the group discusses classic historical works on the history of epidemics, contagion, and public health. Further, they use these historical readings to discuss the current pandemic. DPhil student, Michael Yeo says, "This timely discussion has allowed me to better understand not only pandemics in history but also the COVID-19 crisis." 

As this group demonstrates, graduate research in History is important but also wide-ranging. This group has brought together historians from various backgrounds and research interests. More than this, the group has provided a space of connection during a time of isolation and uncertainty. 

DPhil student, Hande Yalnizoglu writes, "I work on epidemics in the 19th century Ottoman world and can say that I have been overwhelmed with living through an epidemic myself while writing a chapter thesis! It felt like I should have something smart to say 'publicly' as a historian or that I should make 'intelligent' inferences from what's going on with COVID for my own work. The group has calmed down some of these urges and has given a structure to my disorganized thinking and ideas about today's events. I can also say that it has been a wonderful way to remain connected with Oxford colleagues at a time when one can feel pretty isolated and anxious about when we can all get together physically to share ideas again".