In the 14th century, an infectious disease that came to be known as the Black Death emerged in Asia and spread along trade routes to Europe, killing an estimated 60% of the population in about a year. Using the Black Death as a starting point, this course will examine the history of epidemics across the globe from 1350 to the present day using five case studies: Black Death (14th century); Smallpox (1775-82); Cholera (mid 19th century); Spanish Influenza (1918); and HIV/AIDS (1980s to the present). We will spend a significant amount of the course analyzing primary sources from those who witnessed epidemics, treated the sick, and lived and died during various epidemic outbreaks and attempted to understand them from a range of personal, literary, film, medical, media, museum, and public health perspectives. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze how epidemic and infectious diseases created historical watersheds that have shaped our world history socially, politically, environmentally, and economically to the present day. We will also examine human responses to epidemics in artistic, cultural, and intellectual realms, and the ways in which politicians, medical doctors, national and international bureaucracies, religious personnel, scholars, and everyday women and men debated their philosophical and moral implications. The final weeks of the course analyze contemporary "pandemic preparedness" policy and responses to health threats including vaccine controversies, ebola, and H1N1.