The World Today presents - From Black Death to Yellow Fever: Disease, Death, & Distancing in World History
12:00pm - 1:00pm
Virtual Event


From the Black Death to the 19th century quarantine system, global disease outbreaks have long been part of human history. 

Much like social distancing can protect individuals from COVID-19, getting closer to our history can help protect societies from short-sighted policies.

What lessons can we learn from the Middle Ages and the 19th century? What are the historical origins of quarantine and social distancing? What was self-quarantine like before Netflix – or electricity? And what can past pandemics teach us about our changing global order?

Join us for this virtual edition of The World Today to discuss pandemics, quarantine, and world affairs in historical perspective with Professor Alex Chase-Levenson and Professor Ada Kuskowski.


Alex Chase-Levenson is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Yellow Flag: Quarantine and the British Mediterranean World (Cambridge, 2020). He is currently working on a new project about British strategies, fantasies, and fears regarding national borders in the long nineteenth century. Before joining Penn’s department, Chase-Levenson received his PhD in history from Princeton University (2015).

Ada Kuskowski is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Her interdisciplinary work weaves together approaches from history, law and literature with the larger goal of understanding how legal cultures developed in Europe during the Middle Ages (ca. 500-1500). She is currently working on a book titled Law in the Vernacular: Composing Customary Law in Medieval France, which examines lay juristic communities in Northern France as they sought to theorize an oral and performed custom and express it in writing, and in vernacular language. Kuskowski completed her Ph.D. at Cornell University in 2013, where she specialized in medieval legal history.