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Diseases, Epidemics and Plagues in Human History

General data

Course ID: 0000-CHEZ-OG
Erasmus code / ISCED: 08.3 Kod klasyfikacyjny przedmiotu składa się z trzech do pięciu cyfr, przy czym trzy pierwsze oznaczają klasyfikację dziedziny wg. Listy kodów dziedzin obowiązującej w programie Socrates/Erasmus, czwarta (dotąd na ogół 0) – ewentualne uszczegółowienie informacji o dyscyplinie, piąta – stopień zaawansowania przedmiotu ustalony na podstawie roku studiów, dla którego przedmiot jest przeznaczony. / (0222) History and archaeology The ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) code has been designed by UNESCO.
Course title: Diseases, Epidemics and Plagues in Human History
Name in Polish: Choroby, epidemie i zarazy w historii ludzkości
Organizational unit: University of Warsaw
Course groups: General university courses
General university courses in the humanities
ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): 2.00 Basic information on ECTS credits allocation principles:
  • the annual hourly workload of the student’s work required to achieve the expected learning outcomes for a given stage is 1500-1800h, corresponding to 60 ECTS;
  • the student’s weekly hourly workload is 45 h;
  • 1 ECTS point corresponds to 25-30 hours of student work needed to achieve the assumed learning outcomes;
  • weekly student workload necessary to achieve the assumed learning outcomes allows to obtain 1.5 ECTS;
  • work required to pass the course, which has been assigned 3 ECTS, constitutes 10% of the semester student load.

view allocation of credits
Language: Polish
Type of course:

elective courses
general courses

Prerequisites (description):

Lectures are directed to all years and all faculties of the University of Warsaw


Classroom and field classes

Short description:

The lectures will deal with the history of the most important infectious diseases that have affected humanity from ancient times to the present day. The title topics of the lectures will include plague, cholera, typhus, smallpox and COVID-19. Students will learn how epidemics and pandemics decided the fate of selected nations, countries and cities. A lot of emphasis will be put on the history of Warsaw in the context of the fight against diseases and epidemics. The history of the diseases will also be discussed through the prism of art, literature and film. Students will find out what impact epidemics and plague had on demography and social affairs. They will learn about the most famous rulers, artists and writers who struggled with the most deadly diseases. Symptoms and methods of treatment will be presented too (in a historical context). The invitation to classes is addressed to both supporters of humanities and representatives of medical sciences.

Full description:

Full course description The invitation to participate in the course is addressed to people interested in the history of the most famous diseases that humanity struggled from ancient times to modern times. The main purpose of the lectures will be presentation of pandemics and epidemics in a historical context, as well as against the background of paintings, sculptures, literary and film works. The students will become familiar with the most famous rulers, politicians, artists, writers and actors who struggled with the title ailments. There will also be shown an impact of diseases on the development, demography and urban planning of selected cities (Paris, London, Vienna, New York, Venice). Much emphasis will also be placed on the importance of infectious diseases in Polish-Italian relations. The lectures will include the history of Poland and Warsaw through the prism of the history of diseases and epidemics. The most important drugs, vaccines and their inventors will be presented too. The lecturer will indicate diseases’ symptoms and treatment methods both in the past and today.

The course will consist of 15 classes. Each lecture will last 90 minutes.

Basic topics:

1. Introductory lecture

2. Plaque

3. Smallpox

4. Syphilis

5. Leprosy

6. Tuberculosis

7. Malaria

8. Yellow Fever

9. Cholera

10. Influenza

11. Typhus

12. AIDS

13. Ebola

14. SARS-CoV-1 i MERS

15. COVID-19


1. T. Brzeziński, Historia medycyny, Warszawa 1995.

2. Z. Gajda, Do historii medycyny wprowadzenie, Kraków 2011.

3. W. Szumowski, Historia medycyny, Warszawa 1961.

4. M. Łyskanowski, Medycyna i lekarze dawnej Warszawy, Warszawa 1976.

5. G. Paul, 50 faktów z historii medycyny, Warszawa 2016.

6. J. Aberth, Spektakle masowej śmierci: plagi, zarazy, epidemie, Warszawa 2012.

7. J. Brown, Grypa: sto lat walki, Kraków 2019.

8. A. Karpiński, W walce z niewidzialnym wrogiem, Warszawa 2000.

9. K. Polek, Ł. Sroka (red.), Epidemie w dziejach Europy, Kraków 2016.

10. Sz. Wrzesiński. Epidemie w dawnej Polsce, Zakrzewo 2011.

11. Christopher Duncan, Susan Scott, Czarna śmierć: epidemie w Europie od starożytności do czasów współczesnych, Warszawa 2008.

12. J. Ruffié, Jean Ch. Soumia, Historia epidemii: od dżumy do AIDS, Warszawa 1996.

13. A. Nitsch-Osuch, A. Tyszkiewicz (red.), Od dżumy do COVID-19. Choroby, epidemie i pandemie w medycynie i humanistyce, Warszawa 2022.

Learning outcomes:

After completing the course the student:

- has basic knowledge about the most famous diseases from ancient times to the 21st century,

- can describe the symptoms and main methods of treatment of the title diseases,

- knows the profiles of famous doctors and researchers who contributed to preventing the development of epidemics,

- understands disease prevention methods, both historical and contemporary,

- knows, how to identify the most important works of art and literature as well as film images related to the topic of the course,

- recognizes the importance of diseases, epidemics in the history of humanity, Poland and Warsaw,

- knows examples of the influence of infectious diseases on cultural and scientific relations between Poland and Italy,

- recognizes the relationship between important historical moments and the impact of diseases on society,

- can assign epidemic outbreak areas,

- knows how to characterize the history of selected cities in an epidemiological context

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:

Completion of classes will take place on the basis of the controlled presence. In addition, during the last meeting a short test will close questions.

Classes in period "Winter semester 2022/23" (past)

Time span: 2022-10-01 - 2023-01-29
Choosen plan division:

see course schedule
Type of class:
Participatory lecture, 30 hours, 50 places more information
Coordinators: Adam Tyszkiewicz
Group instructors: Adam Tyszkiewicz
Students list: (inaccessible to you)
Examination: Course - Grading
Participatory lecture - Grading
Course descriptions are protected by copyright.
Copyright by University of Warsaw.
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