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Course Description

The coronavirus pandemic has been nothing less than a tragedy and its full effects will be making themselves felt for years to come. But for historians and policymakers, the pandemic also offers an opportunity to study: 1) how and why the crisis unfolded the way it did; and 2) by extension, what we can do the next time a pandemic hits. This course addresses those questions using what we might think of as “historical thinking skills”. We do not have the extensive secondary literature that some historical topics offer. But there are many historians working on topics with only primary sources -sources fresh from the front as it were. The pandemic offers such sources in abundance already (the tweets, public statements, and journalistic accounts it has generated are the lifeblood of history books) and while a definitive account will have to wait a bit, a first cut is both feasible and essential. It is feasible because, as mentioned, the sources are available. It is essential because this is precisely what policymakers need to engage in right now, whether in a congressional inquiry, a detailed report, or some other format. The course offers an opportunity to explore the world where contemporary history and practical policy come together.

Affiliated With:

  • Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy