Lecture, Barnard's Inn Hall, Thursday, 10 Nov 2022 - 18:00

Polio: A Cultural History

a polio-affected child being placed in an iron lung

Polio has a major role in the cultural history of the West. The early symptoms – which were often mild flu-like symptoms – would end in paralysis. Vaccinations against the disease proved controversial, given their trials on incarcerated prisoners and the use of “poster children”.

Epidemics of the disease illustrate the uneven transmission of ideas about health and sickness. They show how the period's germ theories resulted not only in mass deaths, but also in the demonisation of immigrants and poor households. 

Joanna Bourke

Professor Joanna Bourke

Professor of Rhetoric

Professor Bourke is Professor of Rhetoric at Gresham College.

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