VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s been said that history is the greatest teacher. That may also be true in the case of COVID-19, in terms of where it’s been and where it’s going. Mitchell L. Hammond prefers to leave the science to the scientists, but the University of Victoria Assistant Professor of History will admit there are parallels between the novel coronavirus and other pandemics.
“They’re both biological events. You know, they involve microbes and how they spread,” he explains. “And they’re also social events that involve how people interact and how institutions interact.”
LISTEN: Epidemics and The Modern World
In his book, Epidemics and The Modern World, Hammond writes, “Humans write history but microbes have history too. A full reckoning of past events and future solutions must take account of how one history depends on the other.”
“We have to think about both of these dimensions of pandemics when we’re thinking about what consequences they’ve had for our history and what we should do about them,” he says.
“A lot rests in our hands, individually and collectively, so I think it’s difficult to forecast how things will go,” Hammond admits. However, he adds many of the conversations we’re having now, were had a century ago during the Spanish Flu pandemic. And if that experience taught us anything, it’s that societies are resilient.
“The Spanish Flu was responsible or contributed to tens of millions of deaths worldwide in just the space of 18 months, but thereafter, in the 1920s, much of the world entered a period of great vitality and prosperity,” he points out.
Today on @NEWS1130: I speak with @UVicHistory Assistant Professor Mitchell L. Hammond about his new book, "Epidemics and The Modern World," for some perspective on how #COVID19 may unfold. "A lot rests in our hands, individually and collectively," he says. #1130bookshelf pic.twitter.com/5KL968mjUP
— John Ackermann (@jackermann) May 24, 2020
There is also a key difference between today and a century ago. “We’re experiencing this pandemic through the lens of statistics…to think about how our individual behaviour relates to collective behaviour,” Hammond says. “‘Flattening the curve’ simply means people will become sick more gradually, connecting individual behaviour to collective well-being.”
Epidemics and The Modern World is available from The University of Toronto Press.