Tuesday, 27 November 2012, 6:00PM
Museum of London

The White Plague

Professor Sir Richard Evans FBA

The 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. 

This lecture is part of the series, The Great Plagues: Epidemics in History from the Middle Ages to the Present Day.

professor-sir-richard-evans-fba

Professor Sir Richard Evans FBA is Provost of Gresham College and the President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He was Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge from 2008 until his retirement in September 2014. He is a world-renowned historian and academic, with many of his books now acknowledged as seminal works in the field of modern history.

In 2012 Sir Richard was appointed Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to scholarship. In 2014 he was awarded the Historical Association’s Norton Medlicott Medal for his ‘outstanding contribution to History’, particularly through his ‘significant’ and ‘robust’ engagement in recent national debates about school curriculum reform and about the teaching and commemoration of the First World War. He has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 1993, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society since 1978 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature since 2001. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa by London University in 2013.

Sir Richard has published 18 books as author and seven as editor. In 2008 he published the third part of his monumental large-scale history of the Third Reich, The Third Reich at War, which completed the series of The Coming of the Third Reich (2003) and The Third Reich in Power (2005). The series has sold more than 250,000 copies in English and has been translated into twelve foreign languages. His most recent book, Altered Pasts: Counterfactuals in History, was published to wide acclaim in January 2014. Prior to this his key publications include: Cosmopolitan Islanders: British Historians and the European Continent (2009), Telling Lies About Hitler: The Holocaust, History, and the David Irving Trial (2002), In Defence of History (1997), Rituals of Retribution (1996) and Death in Hamburg (1987), which won the Wolfson Foundation History Prize.

Sir Richard has a strong public engagement as an historian, including acting as principal expert witness in the David Irving libel trial before the High Court in London in 2000. He is currently Deputy Chair of the Spoliation Advisory Panel, a non-departmental public body which advises on claims for the return from public museums and galleries in the UK of artworks looted during the Nazi era.

Sir Richard has lectured extensively all over the world at a variety of literary festivals and events. He has been Editor of the Journal of Contemporary History since 1998 and a judge of the Wolfson History Prize since 1993.

He is a frequent contributor to the broadcast media and the press. His appearances on British television include BBC 1 (Sunday Politics with Andrew Neill) and Channel 4 News. His appearances on British Radio include BBC Radio 4 (Start the Week, In Our Time, Today and World at One), Radio 3 (Nightwaves) and Radio 2 (John Dunn Show). He has also appeared widely television and radio outside the UK, most notably on North German Radio/Television, West German Radio/Television and Radio Multikulti Berlin.

Sir Richard was Gresham Professor of Rhetoric between 2009 and 2013. His series of lectures were as follows:

2012/13 The Great Plagues: Epidemics in History from the Middle Ages to the Present Day
2011/12 The Rise and Fall of European Empires from the 16th to the 20th Century
2010/11 The Victorians: Culture and Experience in Britain, Europe and the World, 1815-1914
2009/10 War and Peace in Europe: From Napoleon to the Kaiser

Previously, he delivered two series of lectures as Visiting Professor of History.

All of Professor Evans' past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of History

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27 November 2012

The White Plague
Professor Sir Richard Evans FBA

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