third lecture in the series deals with tuberculosis, of all diseases the
most widely represented in literature, opera and drama. The disease has
been present in humans since prehistory and hence has a particularly long
pedigree of representation in myth and culture, being one of the sources
of vampire stories on the one hand, and playing a key role in novels of
slow deathbed decline on the other. Though many characters in the
fictional representation of tuberculosis are well-off, most famously of
course in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, it was in fact a disease
of the poor, and reached new levels in the industrial revolution.
Correspondingly the slow decline of its incidence owed more to housing
reform, slum clearance and increasing prosperity than to medical
intervention. The discovery of the vector of the disease in the late
nineteenth century led to effective prevention through the BCG
vaccine from the 1920s, and after 1945 the arrival of antibiotics promised
its complete eradication. Since the 1980s however resistant strains of the
disease have been spreading, and it has once more become associated with
poverty, poor state management and control of disease, and wretched
housing conditions, above all in India.
lecture is part of the series, The Great Plagues: Epidemics in History
from the Middle Ages to the Present Day.
more information on this lecture, please visit its page on the GreshamCollege website: The White Plague
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.