Centaurus Spotlight issue

What does it mean for an epidemic to end, and who gets to declare that it is over? This multidisciplinary spotlight issue provides 18 case studies, each examining specific epidemics and their ends as well as the methodologies used to measure, gauge, and define an epidemic's end. They demonstrate that an epidemic's end is often contentious, raising issues of competing authority. Various forms of expertise jostle over who declares an end, as well as what data and information should be used to measure and define the end of an epidemic. As a result, it is more accurate to describe multiple endings to an epidemic: the medical end, the political end, and the social end. At the same time, multidisciplinary research into the ends of epidemics highlights the crucial role of information and measurement in an epidemic's end, as well as the ways in which ending forces observers to rethink and reconceptualize time.  

Centaurus. Journal of the European Society for the History of Science, Volume 64 (2022), Issue 1. Spotlight Issue: How Epidemics End, edited by Erica Charters. 311 p., 13 colour ill., 178 x 254 mm, 2022

ISBN: 978-2-503-59852-9 Print ISSN: 0008-8994 Online ISSN: 1600-0498

Table of Contents  
Erica Charters
Information, Expertise, and Authority: The Many Ends of Epidemics, p. 15
Natalie M. Linton, Francesca A. Lovell-Read, Emma Southall, Hyojung Lee, Andrei R. Akhmetzhanov, Robin N. Thompson, Hiroshi Nishiura
When Do Epidemics End? Scientific Insights from Mathematical Modelling Studies, p. 31
Nils Chr. Stenseth, Katharine R. Dean, Barbara Bramanti
The End of Plague in Europe, p. 61
Lori Jones
“The Last Time that We Can Say the Plague Raged”: Historicizing Epidemics, p. 73
Paul Slack
End of a Pandemic? Contemporary Explanations for the End of Plague in 18th‑Century England, p. 87
Xiaoping Fang
Ending Epidemics in Mao's China: Politics, Medical Technology, and Epidemiology, p. 99

Atsuko Naono

“Going ‘the Last Mile’ to Eliminate Malaria” in Myanmar?, p. 119

Jean Segata

Chikungunya in Brazil, an Endless Epidemic, p. 133

Virginia Berridge

The Many Endings of Recent Epidemics: HIV/AIDS, Swine Flu 2009, and Policy, p. 145

Cristiana Bastos, Jr.

The Never-Ending Poxes of Syphilis, AIDS, and Measles, p. 155

Christoph Gradmann

This is the End: Eradicating Tuberculosis in Modern Times, p. 171

Clark Spencer Larsen, Fabian Crespo

Paleosyndemics: A Bioarchaeological and Biosocial Approach to Study Infectious Diseases in the Past, p. 181

James L. A. Webb, Jr.

Historical Epidemiology and the Single Pathogen Model of Epidemic Disease, p. 197

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Epidemics that End with a Bang, p. 207

Paul Kelton

The End of Smallpox for Indigenous Peoples in the United States, 1898–1903: An Unnoticed Finale, p. 217

Margaret Pelling

Mythological Endings: John Snow (1813–1858) and the History of American Epidemiology, p. 231

Roderick Bailey

Ends and Means: Typhus in Naples, 1943–1944, p. 249

Arthur Rose

Closure and the Critical Epidemic Ending, p. 261

Einar Wigen

The Multiple Temporalities of Epidemic Endings, p. 273


Centaurus Framework Article

As COVID‐19 drags on and new vaccines promise widespread immunity, the world's attention has turned to predicting how the present pandemic will end. How do societies know when an epidemic is over and normal life can resume? What criteria and markers indicate such an end? Who has the insight, authority, and credibility to decipher these signs? This article examines the ways in which scholars have identified and described the end stages of previous epidemics, pointing out that significantly less attention has been paid to these periods than to origins and climaxes. A multidisciplinary analysis of how epidemics end suggests that epidemics should therefore be framed not as linear narratives—from outbreak to intervention to termination—but within cycles of disease and with a multiplicity of endings.

Charters, E, Heitman, K. How epidemics end. Centaurus. 2021; 63: 210– 224.

blog screenshot

New blog post by Alberto Giubilini (Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and WEH, University of Oxford) and Erica Charters (Faculty of History and WEH, University of Oxford)

How will the COVID-19 pandemic end?  And who gets to decide? This new post by Alberto Giubilini and Erica Charters explores these questions on Oxford's Practical Ethics blog.