How Will COVID-19 Change the World? Historian Frank Snowden on Epidemics From the Black Death to Now

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How Will COVID-19 Change the World? Historian Frank Snowden on Epidemics From the Black Death to Now

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This video is an interview the Democracy Now did with Frank Snowden, Professor Emeritus at Yale University early on in the pandemic (March 18, 2020). Dr. Snowden specializes in the history of epidemic diseases and the history of modern Italy. His father was the first African American ambassador to Italy. At the time of the interview, Dr. Snowden was in lockdown in Rome, Italy. He had gone there to research another project when the pandemic hit, so he changed his focus to studying covid-19. He contracted the disease himself, but was lucky enough to live through it. I was particularly interested in Dr. Snowden's views on the pandemic since I had watched his Yale lecture series on epidemics available on Youtube ( which was incredible in its thorough exploration of some of the worlds worst outbreaks. In the interview he states that an early modern Florentine would recognize a lot of governments' actions to combat covid-19 as very similar to those used by the Italian city-states and elsewhere in Europe to combat bubonic plague, especially the concept of quarantine. He also addresses the startling commonality between anti-Semitism during the first several plague outbreaks to the Sinophobia and xenophobia seen during our current pandemic.
The interviewer also brings up a great question about the possibility of fascism arising out of strict government measures to combat disease. I was particularly curious to hear Dr. Snowden's response in light of the protests in the United States against quarantine and mask-wearing. He acknowledged that while it could be one outcome, it is not the only nor the most probable possibility. Many governments have voluntarily ended their strict measures during pandemics without devolving into fascist states.
Now that the pandemic is, it seems, waning I believe it is abundantly clear that those Americans who feared that their freedoms were threatened by historically proven practices were both selfish and foolish. They and our ineffective and dangerous leadership cause the United States to become a hotbed for Covid-19, while other countries who swiftly enacted and enforced lockdown measures and mask mandates, such as New Zealand and Italy, recovered much more quickly. I contend that Donald Trump and his sheep are responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths.

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This item was submitted on June 7, 2021 by Ashley R. Tibollo using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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