Typhus, the subject of the fifth lecture in the series, was caused by a bacterium hosted by the human body louse, and has thus always been associated with dirty and overcrowded conditions and spread above all by armies marching across the countryside and living in filthy and unhygienic conditions. In 18th-century England it was known as 'gaol fever'. The 'hyginenic revolution' of the Victorian era reduced its incidence. Preventive measures taken on the Western Front reduced casualties, but it recurred during the Second World War, especially at Stalingrad and in Nazi concentration camps. The Nazis carried out numerous experiments on involuntary human subjects to try and develop preventive measures; in Nazi propaganda, the spread of typhus was attributed to the Jews, who were likened to bacilli or lice in order to make their mass murder at Auschwitz and elsewhere acceptable.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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Richard J. Evans
As well as being the Gresham Professor of Rhetoric, Professor Richard J. Evans FBA is Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. He 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 the Journal of Contemporary History since 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.
Professor 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 labor 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.