Consider Lawrence Duggan, a professor
specializing in the later Middle Ages and a survivor of measles, German
measles, adult chicken pox and a near-fatal staph infection. His course
on the historical importance of plagues, offered at UD since 2017, has
become all the more salient since the COVID-19 outbreak.
students will conduct a family disease-and-death history going back at
least two generations — a staple of the course for the last four years —
and they will write essays comparing today with the Spanish influenza
of 1918-1919. That outbreak, which infected approximately 500 million
people, is counted among the most lethal events in history, but it is
also responsible for accelerating improvements in sanitation, community
mitigation measures and scientific research. Victims of that pandemic
had no antibiotics to treat secondary infections like pneumonia.
“There are so many ways in which we are enormously blessed and
privileged,” Duggan said. “Knowing something about the past helps you to
appreciate that. It keeps you from taking the present for granted.”
So the next time you feel tempted to close an email with a plea to
keep safe or healthy, remember that an equally appropriate missive
during this unprecedented period might be to stay resilient. If history
teaches anything, it’s that — when confronted by hardship — people
survive, rebuild and grow.
“The human spirit can be quite extraordinary in dealing with
adversity of this sort,” Duggan said. “Especially when there’s a
Be well. Stay stoic. Have faith.
Article by Diane Stopyra; photos by Ariel Ramirez, Amber Alexander Payne and iStock
Published April 17, 2020