Graham School Events

Pandemics In History: A Lecture Series with Professor Michael Rossi: Plague and the End of the World


A virtual lecture series with Professor Michael Rossi hosted on Zoom.

Antique Globe with oily brown finish

Join us for Part One of our four-part lecture series.

Today we find ourselves in what seems to be a new historic moment. COVID-19 has not only taken lives, but its menace has spawned profound changes in social and cultural practices across the globe, from facial coverings to social distancing. But coronavirus is not the first pathogen to threaten the human species. In this series, Michael Rossi, Assistant Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Chicago, will explore four pandemics—bubonic plague, cholera, influenza, and HIV-AIDS—that have likewise challenged human beings and transformed the ways that we have lived, worked, loved, and clashed. 

Investigating these historical episodes will offer participants a new vantage point to reflect upon the novelty of our present circumstances, as well as to consider the ways we are traveling well-trodden pathways that have long linked disease to the human experience. 

Offered remotely and free of charge by the University of Chicago Graham School, these four Wednesday sessions will combine live lectures by Professor Rossi with moderated discussions on short, pre-distributed readings.  

Registration is required. Curiosity and good will is expected. A certain sobering enrichment is anticipated, as is an appreciation for the hope and will to live that have guided people through time. 



Plague and the End of the World

The three plagues that swept across early modern Europe and Asia were not the first instances of epidemic disease in recorded history. But to many observers, they seemed apocalyptic. With their unpredictability, terrible mortality, and devastating economic, social, and cultural impacts, they challenged philosophers and laypeople alike to come up with new explanations for disease, even as society seemed to be collapsing around them. 

Download the pre-reading for the lecture, from Boccaccio’s Decameron 


About the Professor

Register now

Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults
Master of Liberal Arts
The Open Program in the Liberal Arts
The Writer's Studio