Richard J. Evans traces the history of syphilis - the great pox.
The sexually transmitted disease syphilis is generally
thought to have been imported into Europe from the Americas in the
late fifteenth century as part of the 'Columban exchange', in which other
diseases, notably smallpox, travelled in the other direction, with terrible
consequences for Native American society. It spread rapidly through Europe, spread above all by armies moving across the
continent in the many wars of the time. Painters from Dürer to Rembrandt
represented the ravage it wrought, while the threat it posed gave rise to
numerous treatments in literature and drama (notably Ibsen'Ghosts) and strongly
affected attitudes to sexuality and prostitution, both explored in this
lecture. It remained common well into the twentieth century and still kills
millions worldwide every year; reasonably effective treatment only
became possible just before the First World War, and the search for a
complete cure led to dangerous medical experiments on involuntary human
subjects later in the twentieth century, raising major issues of medical
For transcript and download versions of this lecture, please visit the event's page on the Gresham College website: Syphilis: The Great Pox.
Professor Sir Richard J. Evans FBA
Professor Richard J. Evans FBA is Regius
Professor of Modern History and President of Wolfson College at the University
has lectured extensively all over the world at a variety of literary festivals
and events, is widely published and is a frequent contributor to the broadcast
media and the press.
He has been Editor of theJournal
of Contemporary Historysince
1998 and a judge of the Wolfson Literary Award for History since 1993.
His most recent publication was the third volume of his monumental large-scale
history of the Third Reich,The Third Reich at War, which was
published in 2008.
Evans's area of research interest lies predominantly in German history,
especially social and cultural history, since the mid-nineteenth century.
He has worked on movements of emancipation and liberation, including the
feminist movement and the labour movement, on social inequality in the urban
environment, and on the social history of death and disease. His work on
the history of crime has involved examining literary discourses and their
interaction with social models of deviance, both those articulated by the
authorities and those lived by deviants themselves. Since acting as
principal expert witness in the David Irving libel trial before the High Court
in London in 2000, his work has dealt with Holocaust denial and the clash of
epistemologies when history enters the courtroom.