Global History of Public Health (Winter 2020)

Draft. See Blackboard or syllabus distributed in class for official version.


HIST 335 – Global History of Public Health

Professor: Dr. Benjamin Bryce

Term: Winter 2020

Time: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:00-11:20

Location: Geoffrey R. Weller Library 5-174

Course Description: This course explores the history of public health in a global context from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. The course examines how health has played an integral role in the rise of nation-states, imperialism, and international collaboration. Focusing in particular on the relationship between health and citizenship, the course asks how health policies have set the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion and how science and medicine have been mobilized to the detriment of groups of people defined by their gender, class, race, or ethnicity. It also provides students with new perspectives on global history and the connections that transcended the boundaries of individual countries.

Learning Objectives:

1) A greater understanding of the history of public health.

2) A greater ability to describe how gender, class, race, and ethnicity have influenced health practices.

3) A greater understanding of the connections between local, national, and global history.

4) A greater ability to analyze historiography.

Course Structure: Class time in this course will be divided between lectures and group discussions of assigned reading. Mondays will generally consist of a lecture, and Wednesdays will generally be dedicated to a discussion of the readings.


  1. Attendance and participation, ongoing 20%
  2. In-class presentation , dates to be assigned in the first class 10%
  3. Bibliography and essay proposal, Wednesday, February 5 10%
  4. Term test, Wednesday, March 25 30%
  5. Historiographic research essay, Wednesday, April 8 30%


1. Attendance and participation. As a third-year course, discussion is an important part of learning. Students are expected to attend class regularly and to actively participate in the discussion of the readings. Students will be required to read approximately 75 pages per week, and they should demonstrate a mastery of the readings and share some critical thoughts about the arguments presented. Contributions to the discussion should be based on the readings and be respectful to classmates.

2. In-class presentation. Dates to be chosen in the first week of class. Each student will have to make one presentation to the group (4-5 minutes) on the main themes that appear in one article or book chapter from the week’s assigned readings. Students should identify the main argument of the article or chapter and connect it to the general themes of the course. Students should conclude with two broad questions that stimulate discussion. There will be two or three presentations each week, and students are to coordinate among themselves which topic they will present on. Each student will present on only one article or chapter.

2.b. Article review. Instead of an in-class presentation, students may write a 500-word review of an assigned article. For this alternative assignment, students must choose an article (and not a chapter from the Stepan book). A strong review will go beyond summarizing the main points and argument and also highlight the article’s strengths and its contribution to a broader historiographic conversation (as indicated by the author and based on other course readings). The review is due in the week the article is assigned and on the Wednesday before class begins. The review must be completed by March 18 even if the chosen article is to be read by the class at a later date.

3. Bibliography and essay proposal. 200 words and eight titles. Students will have to select a topic for their research essay well in advance of the due date. For this short assignment, students are asked to write a 200-word paragraph that outlines the general thrust of their essay and that explains their research question. In addition, students are required to include a bibliography of at least eight scholarly articles, books, or chapters in an edited volume that they will use for their research essay. Students are encouraged to use some books, either those found in the UNBC library or acquired through the interlibrary loan system. Students should note that the interlibrary loan system takes about one week for delivery. This bibliography does not require any annotation. Students are welcome to discuss their ideas with Dr. Bryce during his office hours in the weeks leading up to the due date.

4. Term test. 75 minutes, in class on Wednesday, March 25. Students will be asked to answer two of four questions in essay form. Evaluation will be based on the demonstrated mastery of lectures and readings, and questions will be broad enough to allow students to discuss several weeks of readings and lectures.

5. Historiographic research essay. 10-12 pages. Students will be asked to write a historiographic research essay. Students must identify and analyze a topic in the history of public health. They are to draw from at least ten publications (books, articles, or chapters in edited volumes). Outside research is required, and at least ten books, articles, or chapters not assigned in this course must be examined. Students can analyze research assigned in class, but it must be in addition to ten other publications. The topic is open but it must relate to one of the themes of the course.


Nancy Leys Stepan. Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011.

Journal articles are listed in the course overview below. They can be accessed via the library’s catalogue.

Course overview:

Week 1: January 8 – Course Introduction

  • No class Monday. Professor at annual meeting of the American Historical Association
  • Readings:
    • Nancy Stepan, Eradication, Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2, pages 6-65.

Week 2: January 13 and 15 – Migration and Borders

  • Readings:
    • Krista Maglen. “‘The First Line of Defence’: British Quarantine and the Port Sanitary Authorities in the Nineteenth Century.” Social History of Medicine 15 (2002): 413-428.
    • Julia Rodriguez. “Inoculating against Barbarism? State Medicine and Immigrant Policy in Turn-of-the-Century Argentina.” Science in Context 19 (2006): 357-380.
    • Amy Fairchild. “The Rise and Fall of the Medical Gaze: The Political Economy of Immigrant Medical Inspection in Modern America.” Science in Context 19, no. 3 (2006): 337–56.

Week 3: January 20 and 22 – Health and Race

  • Readings:
    • Mary Ellen Kelm. “Diagnosing the Discursive Indian: Medicine, Gender, and the ‘Dying Race’.” Ethnohistory 52 (2005): 371-406.
    • Maureen Lux. “We Demand ‘Unconditional Surrender’: Making and Unmaking the Blackfoot Hospital, 1890s to 1950s.” Social History of Medicine 25 (2011): 665-684.
    • Mona Gleason. “Race, Class, and Health: School Medical Inspection and ‘Healthy’ Children in British Columbia, 1890 to 1930.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 19 (2002): 95-112.

Last day to add/drop courses without financial penalty. Last day to change from audit to credit and credit to audit status. January 20.

Week 4: January 27 and 29

  • No class and no readings this week
  • Prepare essay proposal and bibliography

Week 5: February 3 and 5 – The Spanish Flu

  • Readings:
    • Niall Johnson and Juergen Mueller. “Updating the Accounts: Global Mortality of the 1918-1920 ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 76 (2002): 105-115.
    • Mark Humphries. “Paths of Infection: The First World War and the Origins of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.” War in History 21 (2014): 55-81.
    • Svenn-Erik Mamelund, Lisa Sattenspiel, and Jessica Dimka. “Influenza-Associated Mortality during the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic in Alaska and Labrador: A Comparison.” Social Science History 37 (2013): 177-229.

Bibliography and essay proposal. Due Wednesday, February 5

Week 6: February 10 and 12 – The Rockefeller Foundation and the League of Nations

  • Readings:
    • Nancy Leys Stepan, Eradication, Chapter 3, pages 66-103.
    • Tomoko Akami. “Imperial Polities, Intercolonialism, and the Shaping of Global Governing Norms: Public Health Expert Networks in Asia and the League of Nations Health Organization, 1908–37.” Journal of Global History, 12 (2017): 4-25.
    • Mary Augusta Brazelton. “Engineering Health: Technologies of Immunization in China’s Wartime Hinterland, 1937–45.” Technology and Culture 60, no. 2 (2019): 409-437.

February 17 and 19 – Reading Week

  • Reading week. No readings and no classes.

Week 7: February 24 and 26 – Tropical Medicine

  • Readings:
    • Deborah Neill. “Paul Ehrlich’s Colonial Connections: Scientific Networks and the Response to the Sleeping Sickness Epidemic, 1900-1914.” Social History of Medicine, vol. 22, no. 1 (2009): 61-77.
    • Anna Greenwood and Harshad Topiwala. “Visions of Colonial Nairobi: William Simpson, Health, Segregation and the Problems of Ordering a Plural Society, 1907–1921.” Social History of Medicine (2018): 1-22.
    • Nandini Bhattacharya. “The Logic of Location: Malaria Research in Colonial India, Darjeeling and Duars, 1900–30.” Medical History 55 (2011): 183–202.

Last day to withdraw without academic penalty. February 25.

Week 8: March 2 and 4 – Eugenics

  • Readings:
    • Frank Dikötter. “Race Culture: Recent Perspectives on the History of Eugenics.” American Historical Review 103, no. 2 (1998): 467–78.
    • Molly Ladd-Taylor. “Saving Babies and Sterilizing Mothers: Eugenics and Welfare Politics in the Interwar United States.” Social Politics 4 (1997): 136-153.
    • Alberto Spektorowski. “The Eugenic Temptation in Socialism: Sweden, Germany, and the
Soviet Union.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 46 (2004): 84-106.
    • Andrés Reggiani. “Depopulation, Fascism, and Eugenics in 1930s Argentina.” Hispanic American Historical Review 90 (2010): 283-318.

Week 9: March 9 and 11

  • No class and no readings this week
  • Prepare for term test

Week 10: March 16 and 18 – Venereal Disease

  • Readings:
    • Sarah Kovner. “Base Cultures: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Occupied Japan.” The Journal of Asian Studies 68, no. 3 (2009): 777-804.
    • Mary Louise Roberts. “The Price of Discretion: Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and the American Military in France, 1944–1946.” American Historical Review 115 (2010): 1002-1030.
    • Annette Timm. “Sex with a Purpose: Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and Militarized Masculinity in the Third Reich.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 11 (2002): 223-255.

Week 11: March 23 and 25

  • Readings (discussed on Monday):
    • Nancy Leys Stepan, Eradication, Chapters 4 and 5, pages 104-183.

Term test. Wednesday, March 25

Week 12: March 30 and April 1 – The World Health Organization and Eradication of Disease

  • Readings:
    • Nancy Leys Stepan, Eradication, Chapters 6 and 7, pages 184-261.

Week 13: April 6 and 8 – Family Health and Population Control

  • Readings:
    • Cornelie Usborne. “Rhetoric and Resistance: Rationalization of Reproduction in Weimar Germany.” Social Politics 4 (1997): 65-89.
    • Matthew James Connelly. “Seeing Beyond the State: The Population Control Movement and the Problem of Sovereignty.” Past & Present 193 (2006): 197-233.
    • Raúl Necochea López. “Priests and Pills: Catholic Family Planning in Peru, 1967-1976.” Latin American Research Review 43 (2008): 34-56.

Research essay. Due in class on Wednesday, April 8

Blackboard: This course uses Blackboard. Detailed descriptions of the assignments will be posted on Blackboard three weeks before the due date (in addition to being distributed in class). Students should check this site regularly. Grades will not be posted to the Grade Centre in Blackboard.

Definition of Grades: Papers for this course will be marked according to the scale set by the History Department. An “A” essay is an excellent piece of work, which argues a clearly developed and challenging thesis, the proof of which is grounded in an exceptional usage of relevant primary and/or secondary literature. The research should demonstrate both critical evaluation and creativity while the writing should be sophisticated, coherent, and grammatically sound. In order to receive a final grade in the range of A- to A+, students will be expected to demonstrate consistently: independence of thought; subtle and complex analysis; the ability to grasp, articulate, and respond to arguments offered by others; and an exceptional understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “B” essay demonstrates good research skills, a clearly stated thesis, and a generally successful attempt to develop it logically, based upon secondary literature. The research should reflect an above-average development of ideas and criticism, while the writing should be clear and demonstrate a basic competence in organizational skills and grammar. As such, there should be few grammatical or structural errors. In order to receive a final grade in the range of B- to B+, students will be expected to demonstrate: the potential to engage in independent thought; an appreciation of the complexity of the issues under consideration; and a good understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “C” essay demonstrates that the author possesses a basic understanding of the material and some of the secondary literature, but has unsuccessfully endeavoured to articulate a thesis. While revealing knowledge, comprehension, and some application of information, usually the work also contains grammatical, structural, and organizational errors or flaws. Overall, the essay is adequate but uninspired. In order to receive a final grade in the range of C- to C+, students will be expected to demonstrate some awareness of the complexity of the issues under consideration and a satisfactory understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “D” essay fails to make its case or articulate a thesis. It is marked by a combination of illogical thinking, grammatical errors, flawed research, or a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the assignment. There is little application, analysis, or integration of ideas, and the essay generally fails to demonstrate a working knowledge of the topic at hand. In order to receive a final grade of D, students will be expected to demonstrate minimal competence. Although there may be evidence of an understanding of certain aspects of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussion, there is also evidence of difficulty in applying or communicating this understanding.

An “F” essay is inadequate in that it demonstrates fragmentary and often undigested information. It tends towards compiling rather than analyzing information and reveals a weakness in critical or analytical skills. The use of literature is often severely limited if not inappropriate or irrelevant. Overall, the essay is marked by a profound absence of thinking about the topic or the assignment. In order to receive a final grade of F, students will have failed to give evidence of being intellectually engaged in the subject matter of the course and will have failed to demonstrate even a minimal understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

Evaluation of written work: Assignments will be returned accompanied by comments on overall analysis and structure as well as noting areas that need attention. Assignments will only be returned to the writer. Questions about grades cannot be answered effectively by e-mail. Please read carefully the Department of History’s Definition of Grades before discussing your grade on an assignment with Dr. Bryce. If you ask for an assignment to be reconsidered, note that your grade could go either up or down.

E-mail policy: Please use e-mail to communicate with me only for administrative matters. Please come to the scheduled office hours to discuss questions about course content that or raise them in class. If you cannot make it to my office hours, please e-mail me to set up an alternative appointment. I will respond to e-mails within 48 hours, so please do not leave your inquiries to the last minute. Please take the time to compose a formal e-mail. Assignments will not be accepted by email. Please use your UNBC e-mail address to communicate with me, and please check this e-mail account regularly to receive updates about this course.

Writing centres: Take advantage of the free services offered at the drop-in writing centre in the library ( The Academic Success Centre also provides helpful services to students for free (

Technology etiquette in the classroom: Laptops may be used in class, but only for note taking. I advise that you print a copy of the notes that you take on the assigned readings and participate in class discussions using those notes. Please turn off your cellphones before class begins. It is inappropriate to surf the web or send text messages during any class at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Submission of written work and lateness penalty: Assignments are due in class on the date specified in this syllabus. If an assignment is not handed in in class, it is considered a day late. The late submission of an assignment will be penalized in an exponential manner. For each day an assignment is late, the penalty will be as follows: 2%, 4%, 8%, 16%, 32%, 64%, 100%. This late penalty applies to weekends and holidays as well. No assignments will be accepted after seven days without a valid medical certificate. To submit a late assignment, hand in a paper version to the administrative assistant in the Department of History (Gina MacDonald, whose office is room 3009 on the third floor of McCaffray Hall) before 16:30 on a weekday. She will date-stamp the essay. Once you hand in the paper version, send me an e-mail and a digital copy of your essay so that I know to look for it in my mailbox. If you wish to hand in an assignment on a weekend or after hours, send me your assignment via e-mail and then hand in the hardcopy on the next business day. The Department of History will not be held responsible for any late assignments that go missing. Be sure to retain a copy of your paper and keep all your notes and drafts. If you have extenuating circumstances that will prevent you from submitting your assignment on time, discuss your situation with me in advance of the due date.

Illness and absences: Notify Dr. Bryce as soon as possible if a serious illness or other concern is affecting your ability to keep up with the course. It is also wise to contact the UNBC Wellness Centre or the Registrar’s Office if you are experiencing academic or personal difficulties.

Academic honesty and plagiarism: Authors do not cite sources properly merely to avoid accusations of plagiarism but also to establish credibility, bring other work to the reader’s attention, and demonstrate competing viewpoints.

The University of Northern British Columbia takes academic honesty very seriously. Any suspected cases of plagiarism will be investigated. More information on the University’s procedures on academic offences can be found here:

The code of academic conduct disallows the following:

  • to represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism;
  • to submit, without the knowledge and approval of the instructor to whom it is submitted, any academic work for which credit has previously been obtained or is being sought in another course or program of study in the university or elsewhere.

Accessibility and accommodations: Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. If you have a disability/health consideration that may require course format accommodation, please feel free to approach Dr. Bryce to discuss your needs. If you require accommodations for a disability, or have accessibility concerns about the course, the classroom, or course materials, please contact Dr. Bryce or the Access Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities at (

Student conduct: The University of Northern British Columbia is an academic community whose purpose is to search for knowledge through teaching, research, and the free exchange of ideas. As such, UNBC is committed to developing among its members an enduring sense of community rooted in a working and learning environment which emphasizes mutual respect and tolerance and which is free from discrimination, harassment, disruptive behaviour, and violence. The members of the UNBC community include students, faculty, staff, administrators, governors, senators, and, in certain contexts, visitors. In order for the members of the university community to participate fully and effectively in the university’s purpose, certain standards of conduct must be recognized and respected. The university’s policy and procedures involving disruptive and/or harassing behaviour by students in academic situations is available on this website: