Journal article

’17, ’18, ’19: religion and science in three pandemics, 1817, 1918, and 2019

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Phillips H

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP): HSS Journals

Publication year: 2020

Journal: Journal of Global History

Volume number: 15

Issue number: 3

Start page: 434

End page: 443

Total number of pages: 10

ISSN: 1740-0228

eISSN: 1740-0236



Recognizing that serious pandemics call forth explanations which go to the heart of beliefs about why
natural disasters occur, this article examines three pandemics over the last 200 years (cholera from
1817, Spanish influenza in 1918–19, and COVID-19) to establish whether such explanations have changed
significantly over time and, if so, why. What it finds is that this period saw a watershed in which the dominance
of traditional religious explanations declined in many parts of the world in the face of the ascent of
explanations based on biomedical science. Tracking this momentous change across several faiths and
regions globally makes it possible to put into telling historical perspective the stances taken by faith-based
communities in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.


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Last updated on 2021-10-03 at 13:30