Fall 2020 - HIST 428 D100

Problems in the Social and Economic History of Canada (4)

Historicizing Disease

Class Number: 4195

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Wed, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 101, 102W.



Selected problems in the history of Canadian agriculture and industrial development, migration and settlement, labor, native policy and class structure. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 428 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


History gone Viral: Historicizing Quarantine, Disease, and Public Health in Canada from Smallpox to SARS

We are, it is said, living in unprecedented times. Or are we? In HIST 428, we will examine how contagious disease periodically emerged as a political, economic, and social crisis in Canada. We will analyze theories about moral panics, probing the fraught relationship between individuals and the state that underpinned decisions about public health interventions in a range of epidemiological contexts between 1782 and 2003. You can expect to closely analyze primary sources produced in times of epidemics to develop an in-depth understanding of the contours of government policy, public concerns, and medical developments that underpinned Canada’s and Canadians’ responses to epidemic and endemic contagious disease.

To round out the term, we will together create a website and podcast series, Historicizing the Quarantine, in which each class member will individually present their interpretation of primary documents, contexualized within the historiography of public health.

This course will be delivered using primarily asynchronous methods, with optional weekly synchronous seminars to informally discuss course materials. Students should expect to attend one or two short online meetings, scheduled collaboratively, to plan our digital project.


Theorizing the history of epidemics and quarantine

Epidemics, contact, and settler colonialism

Epidemics and pre-Confederation state formation

Quarantining and racializing outsiders

Social and cultural responses to infectious disease

Epidemics, Environment, and the Economy

Quarantine and Urban Mobility

Disease and Dispossession: Tuberculosis in Indigenous Communities

1918 “Spanish” Flu

Perspectives on Polio

Venereal disease

Mobilizing public health histories


  • Online discussion participation 20%
  • News article analyses (x2) 20%
  • Proposal: Podcast: Historicizing the Quarantine 10%
  • Peer review: Podcast: Historicizing the Quarantine 10%
  • Final Draft: Podcast: Historicizing the Quarantine 40%



Primary sources will be selected with student input throughout the term. All course materials will be available digitally.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).