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24 heures: A historical take on COVID-19

In an article published by Swiss newspaper 24 heures, two historians look to the past for lessons on how to deal with a modern pandemic.

Vincent Barras, a professor in the University of Lausanne Institute of Humanities in Medicine, likens the spread of the novel coronavirus to that of information, noting that globalization has played a role in the exponential growth of the virus. He and Michel Porret, a professor of modern history at the University of Geneva, compare the role of information – and disinformation – about COVID-19 with that of narratives surrounding past plagues like the Spanish flu.

Both historians agree that the dissemination of knowledge about diseases is key to fighting public panic and anxiety. As Barras puts it, “the effects of collective anxiety are well known and, as a rule, very bad. This experience is recorded in the collective memory and documented.”

Read the full article, published on March 18th: « Le coronavirus, la raison, la mort et nous » 

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