Clio and the Contemporary

  • Of Plagues and Papers: COVID-19, the Media, and the Construction of American Disease History

    May 1, 2020 by

    In their attempts to make sense of the novel coronavirus, media outlets frequently invoke the past, comparing COVID-19 to the Black Death, the “Great Influenza” of 1918-19, and other historical disease outbreaks. The act of connecting “then” and “now” has produced two countervailing historical narratives: one that emphasizes medical progress over time, and another that highlights America’s failure to learn the lessons of past pandemics.

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