This seminar examines the rise in global public health since the mid-twentieth century using the case studies of the malaria and smallpox eradication programmes. It investigates the relationship between national governments, local populations and transnational organisations and how these were shaped by the geopolitical climate. By taking two eradication programmes from the 1950s – one which “failed” and one which “succeeded” – we will also explore the explanatory frameworks provided by historians and public health researchers for how global health ought to operate; as well as the moral and methodological implications for historians.
• Why have nation states, institutions and philanthropic organisations in the “Global North” been interested in the public health of peoples in the “Global South”?
• Were the failures of the malaria eradication programme technical or political?
• “Since smallpox was eliminated, the ends justified the means.” Discuss.
• Can public health learn lessons from history? Should it?
Larry Brilliant, WHO smallpox eradication worker in 1970s India speaking to Sanjoy Bhattacharya at the University of York (2009). [Option 10 here: https://www.york.ac.uk/history/research/majorprojects/smallpox-eradication/audio/brilliant/]
John Manton, ‘Global Public Health’, in Virginia Berridge, Martin Gorsky and Alex Mold (eds), Public Health in History (2011), pp. 179-94.
Tanja R. Müller, ‘The Long Shadow of Band Aid Humanitarianism: Revisiting the Dynamics between Famine and Celebrity’, Third World Quarterly 34 (3) (2013): 470–84.
Randall M. Packard, ‘Malaria Dreams: Postwar Visions of Health and Development in the Third World’, Medical Anthropology 17 (3) (1997): 279–96.
Bob H. Reinhardt, The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era (2015), Chapter 1 (pp. 19-51).
Sanjoy Bhattacharya and Rajib Dasgupta, ‘Smallpox and Polio Eradication in India: Comparative Histories and Lessons for Contemporary Policy’, Ciência & Saúde Coletiva 16 (2) (2011): 433–44. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-81232011000200007.
William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2007).
Frank Fenner et al., Smallpox and Its Eradication (1988).
Socrates Litsios, ‘Malaria Control, the Cold War, and the Postwar Reorganization of International Assistance’, Medical Anthropology 17 (3) (1997): 255–78.