Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations
Monday, 22 May 2023
£7 - £15
Award-winning historian and broadcaster Professor Sir Simon Schama introduces his new book about the history of pandemics, vaccines and the health of nations at this special FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival event on Monday May 22.
Schama explains how vulnerable humanity has also found itself caught between the terror of contagion and the ingenuity of science before the latest pandemic. He tells the gripping stories of 18th and 19th century pandemics, including smallpox strikes in London, plague in India, and cholera in Paris. His cast of characters includes a philosopher-playwright burning up with smallpox in a chateau, a vaccinating doctor going house to house in Halifax, and a woman doctor in India driving her inoculator-carriage through stricken streets. At the heart of it all is the gun-toting Jewish microbiologist Waldemar Haffkine, who was celebrated in England but cold-shouldered by the medical establishment of the British Raj. He created the world’s first mass production line of vaccines in Mumbai but was brought down in a shocking act of injustice. Schama says that as we face the challenges of our times together, “there are no foreigners, only familiars”.
Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University. His award-winning books include Citizens, Landscape and Memory, Rembrandt’s Eyes, A History of Britain, The Power of Art, Rough Crossings, The American Future, The Face of Britain and The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (1000 BCE - 1492). He has written and presented more than 50 films for the BBC including works on Tolstoy, the story of the Jews, and as co-presenter of the landmark series on the history of world art, Civilisations.