Prejudice and Pandemics

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Contents Editor’s Note | 2 Societies | 4-6 Academic | 7-43

Morality Vice: Combatting Venereal Disease in Progressive Era America | Jack Bennett The Metic in the Wake of the Athenian Plague | Justin Biggi How Manifest Destiny Fuelled Racial Prejudice | Finlay Cormack The Sovereignty Pandemic, the Paris Peace Conference, and the Contestation of National Space | Inge Erdal The Sand Creek Massacre and the Death of Native American Culture | Amy Hendrie Edinburgh’s Infrastructure, the Spread of Disease and the Plague Outbreak of 1645 | Melissa Kane Racialised Disease: The Bubonic Plague in Honolulu, 1899-1900 | Sofia Parkinson Klimaschewski Plague in Bombay in the Late 19th Century: When Colonial Medicine gets Political and Politics Meets the People | Lucy Parfitt Early Christian Responses to the Antonine Plague as an Illustration of Distinctiveness Within the Roman World | Alex Smith COVID-19 and the Disease of Systemic Racism | Grace Smith The Rise and Fall of the British Union of Fascists: Anti-Semitism and International Fascism | Lucy Thomas-Stanton Post-Pandemic England: ‘Golden Age’ or ‘Grey Age’ for Women in the Late Medieval Period | Sophie Whitehead The Self-Slaying Epidemic: Historical Mental Illness and the Case for Psychohistory | Jess Womack

Features and Reviews | 44-54

How Unique was the US Election? | Lucy Cowie Public History in the Age of COVID-19 | Mhairi Ferrier The Portrayal of the AIDS Pandemic and Homophobia in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ | Kat Jivkova Lovecraft Country: History through Poetry | Rebeka Luzaityte Plague and Paganism: An Experimental Take on the Greek Gods | Simone Witney

Bibliographies | 55-57

The Team Editor in Chief (President) Jamie Gemmell Deputy Editor (Secretary) Tristan Craig Deputy Editor (Treasurer) Alice Goodwin Illustrators Natasha Burcheit Hannah Purdom Copy Editors Martha Stutchbury Caroline Swartz Rebeka Luzaityte Ebba Andersson Alex McPhail Colleen Gibbs Sofia Parkinson Daisy Collins Columnists Jack Bennett Jack McGlone Jenn Goselin Laszlo Wheatley Melissa Kane Mhairi Ferrier Kvitka Perehinets Hazel Atkinson Justin Biggi Kat Jivkova Jess Womack Inge Erdal Simone Witney Junior Columnists Amy Hendrie Alex Smith Fraser Barnes Finlay Cormack Sophie Whitehead Sophie Comninos

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics


From the Editor Welcome to the latest edition of Retrospect! When I was elected Editor in Chief back in March, the UK was just about to head into a national lockdown as the Coronavirus pandemic became uncontrollable. Initially expected to last only six weeks, the lockdown dragged on through most of the summer and we were forced to grapple with a complete change in lifestyle. In the midst of this pandemic, George Floyd was murdered by US police, sparking global protests against anti-Black racism and White supremacy. History became an epicentre of this movement, with renewed action against monuments dedicated to the violent legacies of Whiteness, from US Confederate generals to British slaveowners. As I write today, the UK has entered its third national lockdown and security has only just returned to the US Capitol following an invasion by White terrorists, intent on overturning the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. In the midst of these entangled pandemics (COVID-19 and White supremacy), we offer a small contribution that looks at some of the ways that disease and prejudice have often come hand in hand. “Prejudice and Pandemics” contains a whole plethora of pieces, each providing an original engagement with this theme. From Kat Jivkova’s examination of homophobia and HIV/AIDS in relation to the 2013 film, Dallas Buyers Club, to Inge Erdal’s analysis of the so-called “Sovereignty Pandemic” of the interwar period. We move across space and time, with Justin Biggi’s discussion of the Metic in the aftermath of the Athenian Plague and Grace Smith’s analysis of the links between COVID-19 and systemic racism. I hope that we offer routes to thinking through the interplay between prejudice and pandemics. As a society we have been relatively well-placed to maintain some degree of normality, despite the ongoing situation. We have successfully moved all of our events online and achieved record engagement with our online articles. At the beginning of the academic year, we hosted Dr Sowande’ Mustakeem (Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis) for a superb discussion on her 2016 monograph, Slavery at Sea. Whilst unable to launch in-person, we have implemented a delivery system and achieved wider circulation of our print edition. Later in January, we will be hosting Professor Vincent Brown (Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University) for a talk on his book, Tacky’s Revolt. I believe we have taken advantage of some of the opportunities offered by this ongoing situation. None of this work would have been possible without the Retrospect Team. This year’s columnists and copy editors have been exceptional and have worked to produce nuanced and rigorous pieces. Our Junior Columnists, a position introduced this year, have proven resilient and hard-working, offering a sustained engagement with a variety of topics. Our illustrators, Natasha Burcheit and Hannah Purdom, have been phenomenal, carefully reflecting on this edition and its pieces via the visual. I would like to offer special thanks to Retrospect’s Deputy Editors, Tristan Craig and Alice Goodwin, who have provided guidance and leadership throughout this academic year. It has been fantastic working with them and they have been crucial to the running of the journal. And, finally, I would like to thank you, our readers, for your support. I hope you enjoy what we have to offer. Happy Reading! Jamie Gemmell, Editor in Chief

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HCA Societies History Society Semester one for History Society has been unlike any I have experienced before and I have been incredibly proud of the committee for how they have managed to overcome and, in many ways, make the best out of an unprecedented situation. History Society has a well-established social calendar, including, of course, the Winter Ball. This year however due to Covid-19 we have hosted all of our events - academic and social online as well as all of our committee meetings. I am, yet to meet some of the committee in person, but feel as if I know them all so well already.

to the present: inclusive readings of history to decolonise the academy’ and lastly from Charlotte James Robertson who spoke on ‘“Lives Free of Fear of Any Kind”: The Establishment of Specialist BME Women’s Refuges in Britain, (1979-1989)’. Then on the 18 November launched our workshop series “Scotland, Slavery, and Black History: Wikipedia Editing Workshops” alongside Professor Diana Paton, historian of the Caribbean, Ewen McAndrew, the University’s resident Wikimedian, and BlackEd. This was a launch of our collaborative project taking place in the new year which is designed Academically, this semester has been an to train a dedicated focus group on Wikipedia undeniable success, our Academic Secretaries editing whose attention will then be directed at Scarlett and Connall having engaged in some important figures in Scotland’s Black History particularly topical subjects. To mark the US whose pages need updating. We had some election, they held two events with great turn great discussions about the role of Wikipedia outs. First, we were joined by Edinburgh’s in public history, the importance of this type of own Dr Robert Mason (Professor of Twentieth- work in the wake of BLM protests and how to Century US History) who spoke to us about how stimulate important conversations around race in the modern Republican party has sought the other disciplines, particularly in STEM. We are highest office in US politics, the Presidency. We looking forward to starting our related series of then hosted the “Whiskey Rebellion Podcast”, workshops in semester two. which is led by Edinburgh University’s Professor Frank Cogliano and Dr David Silkenat where we Since this year has presented many challenges, engaged in a lively Q&A surrounding the latest for new students particularly, many of History developments in the US. Society’s social events have focused on mental health, creating connections amongst students, We have also marked Black History Month and getting to know Edinburgh virtually. Our this Semester. On 26 October we hosted our Student Experience Officers, Lauren and Shreya, “Black History Month: Hidden Histories” event, collaborated with the brilliant local charity Health organised by our Postgraduate Representative, in Mind on a virtual stress awareness workshop Daniel, alongside the Academic Secretaries. which focused on an open discussion about We heard three papers, first from Lisa Williams, signs and management of stress for university founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association students. Our First Year Representatives, Helena who spoke about ‘The Caribbean presence in and Olivia, have worked hard on their ‘Speed Edinburgh in the eighteenth and nineteenth Friending’ project which has connected up to centuries’, then from Anna Adima who’s paper forty first year students to another individual. was entitled ‘Female African students in This has, we hope, enabled some first years to European universities from the early 20th century experience face-to-face interaction whilst sticking


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics to the Covid-19 guidelines. In addition, our Trip Secretaries, Sara and Katie, have been working hard on their ‘Edinburgh Recommends’ posts which give recommendations for COVID-19 safe activities students can do in our beautiful city. Keep an eye out from some exciting updates from our Social Secretaries (Scarlett and Sophie) next semester who have a massive project their excited to announce which focuses too on this drive to develop feelings of community within the History, Classics, and Archaeology School. Our Postgraduate Representative deserves a special shout out in this piece: Daniel Heathcote is the second postgraduate representative ever in the history society committee. This was a role established in 2019 to attempt to create a better bond between postgraduate and undergraduates’ communities in HCA and Daniel has been hard at work. Over November and December, Daniel has been working on his seminar series ‘Don’t Diss the Diss’, for honours students and MSc students which was designed to give students help and advice from current postgrads on the dissertation, covering topics ranging from managing mental health, research methods, and enjoying the dissertation. Legend has it that he is now referred to in the postgraduate WhatsApp Lucy Parfitt History Society President (2020-2021)


group as the ‘History Society Lad’. Lastly, the History Society Sports Teams Hockey, Men & Women’s Football, Men’s Rugby, and Women’s Netball - all deserve huge praise this semester, having been able to foster team spirit and friendships despite the restrictions and uncertainty placed on them. A big shout out to Men’s football who entertained us with their Movember efforts and Men’s Rugby who covered the distance from the Scotsman Steps in Edinburgh to the Scotsman Pub in St Julian’s, Malta, raising money for the men’s mental health charity Loose Headz. In total, the guys raised £3,136 and we are so proud that they have managed to achieve so much despite the difficult circumstances. I want to take the opportunity, again, to thank my wonderful committee for all their hard work, resilience, and creativity this semester. Even though it has not been the experience we may have hoped for or imagined, you have all made the most of it and the result of that is plain to see in the success of your events.

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Classics Society Salvete! In a year of online classes, no household mixing, and cancelled plans, we went into semester one unsure of what the Classics Society would look like this year. However, when we logged into our first online meet and greet session, we were surprised and elated to see so many attendants smiling back at us through their webcams. Many of these attendants were first years who were understandably anxious about their university social life in the COVID pandemic. However, the success of our zoom quizzes and drunk history nights, is a testament to the hard work of our social secretaries Charlie Hodgson and Jenny Shearer, who managed to bring a much needed distraction from the current world.

both aimed at de-colonising classics, and were a refreshing and much needed perspective on the importance of making classics accessible for all.

The Classics Society social media accounts, run by the fantastic Tessa Rodriguez, have been crucial assets this year in bringing the classics community at the university together. A great feature we have started is the ‘Classics Staff Spotlight’ in which we interview and get to know the lecturers more, as a way to make students, especially first years, more familiar with the staff. The Classics Society holds such a dear place in my heart and has been the source of great joy and friendships throughout my university career. I am eager to see what 2021 will bring, as we have exciting projects in the works, and hopefully we will be able to return to in person socials in One definite positive of the strange new times the near future. I am so grateful for the hard work we find ourselves in, is the use of technology to of my committee during this tough academic connect with people across the world. One of year, and it is my hope that we continue to be my personal favourite events we held this year a place for students of all backgrounds to share was our ‘Evening With’ series organised and their love of classics. hosted by our incredible Academic Liaison Molly McDowell. Using zoom meant that we were able Bonam fortunam! to host guest lecturers from outside Edinburgh, including Edinburgh University alum Hardeep Dhindsa, and Hamilton College Professor Shelley Haley from the US. These talks were

Frances Butland Classics Society President (2020-2021)


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ArchSoc Needless to say, it was a very different semester for ArchSoc with no in-person events possible. We moved regular events online as well as developing alternative events. Our lecture series successfully moved onto Zoom with high attendances from students, staff, and the general public. One particular lecture had an attendance of just under 60 people with attendees from the USA, Canada, Ireland, and Denmark. Our thanks to all of our speakers from first semester: Prof. Jim Crow, Dr. Jonny Geber, Dr. Guillaume Robin, Dr. Manuel FernándezGötz, and Rich Hiden and Rachel Backshall, for providing interesting and insightful discussions. ArchSoc’s fortnightly lecture series will continue in second semester with talks from speakers such as Prof. Ian Ralston and Dr. Joanne Rowland. We were still able to hold our traditional Halloween and Christmas social events, albeit via Zoom. Thank you to everyone who attended and made them so enjoyable. Group pumpkin carving via video-conferencing software was a personal highlight. We also developed our online coffee afternoons to provide a safe social meet-up in this time of isolation. These were in collaboration with ArchPALS who provided academic support during discussion on coursework. This semester a new event for us was a Scavenger Hunt around Edinburgh and, virtually, further afield. Released weekly, sites were visited and recorded by participants with a chance to win, following government and university guidelines. All sites were visitable virtually so that students could get involved if they were not comfortable with going out in the current situation or were not residing in Edinburgh. We also included sites from further afield that were for virtual visiting Sam Land ArchSoc President (2020-2021)

only, such as Stonehenge. The scavenger hunt was well-enjoyed and provided motivation to go out during restrictions whilst remaining safe. Our particular thanks to committee members Darcey Spenner, Becky Underwood, and Patrícia Hromadová for organising and producing the scavenger hunt across the semester. Once again, congratulations to the overall winner Megan Powell and to our runners-up Ross Morrison and Grayson Thomas. In October, we held an EGM to elect members to the new committee positions of First Year Representative, Postgraduate Representative, and BAME Officer. We were happy to welcome Ross Dempster (First Year Rep), Katie Duke (Postgrad Rep), and Becky Underwood (BAME Officer) into these roles. Our thanks to all the candidates that ran for the positions. We look forward, in second semester, to collaborating with the ArchSocs of the University of Highlands and Islands and Glasgow University on the SSAS Conference 2021. We also look forward to our Fieldwork Fair, likely to be online, and to the continuation of our other events. We hope to see you there! You can keep up to date with ArchSoc via Facebook (Edinburgh University Archaeology Society), Instagram (@edinarch), or emailing us at with any queries or to be added to the mailing list. I would like to thank all of the committee for overcoming difficult times this semester and organising fantastic events. Thank you to our members and everyone who attended lectures or events this semester, and finally my thanks to Retrospect for the opportunity to share ArchSoc’s semester with you.

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Morality Vice: Combatting Venereal Disease in Progressive Era America By Jack Bennett Sex work and the spread of venereal disease were two entangled epicentres of the Progressive Era (1890-1920). Both were blamed on personal vice, an idea shaped by perceptions of gender, race, and citizenship. The social hygiene movement, which sought to eradicate diseases associated with “moral vice” expanded. Of the many issues progressives confronted, venereal disease came to underscore the prejudicial social and political transformations of the United States during this period. Historically, anti-vice campaigns had been one element of religious revivalism. During the Progressive Era these campaigns received growing institutional support from medical and social reformers. Rates of infection were highlighted by the inquiries of charitable investigators, settlement workers, and emerging social work professions. Coinciding with this social hygiene reformism was the emergence of First Wave Feminism. Many in the movement blamed society’s moral ills,including venereal disease, on patriarchy. For both movements, moral reform required political reform. Vice became the causal factor, responsible for corrupt officials and the spread of disease. Exposing sex work, thus became a regular weapon in the hands of groups advocating political reform.

impulse and the movement for social justice coincided. These anti-prostitution campaigns were characterised by federal government intervention, local law enforcement, and non-governmental social reformer groups. The social hygiene movement, beginning with the founding of the American Society of Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis in New York City in 1905, also contributed to the growth of reform sentiment. Under the leadership of Dr. Prince A. Morrow, author of Social Diseases and Marriage (1904), the society sought to warn the public of the dangers of venereal disease and to educate young people “about the laws and hygiene of sex.” Similar societies followed and by 1910 coalesced under the American Federation for Sex Hygiene. Nonetheless, these campaigns failed to eliminate sex work. Unwilling to engage with the multifacted problems confronting the individual women involved in the trade, reformers only “eliminat[ed] the most public examples of commercialised sexuality from view in urban spaces”. Anti-vice movements demonstrate the interaction, therefore, between public health, gendered prejudice, and US government policy.

The growing strength of government conviction in successfully curtailing sex work is reflected in the legislation of the period. From 1911 to 1915, Across major cities, sex work was ruthlessly sup- twenty one states passed laws enabling the pressed during the Progressive Era. The Chica- closure of prostitution houses based on citizen go Vice Commission was established in 1911 action, alongside nineteen states introducing anand dismantled the city’s red light district within a ti-pandering measures. Venereal disease was year. Legitimised as a campaign to curb the ram- made reportable to health authorities in eight pant spread of venereal diseases, such as syphi- states, while North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvalis, it fundamentally aimed to protect a prejudiced nia, Vermont, and Wisconsin made venereal disand narrow cultural ideal of womanhood by tar- ease a bar to marriage. Sex work was not simply geting sex workers and immigrants. The crusade a matter of caveat emptor, rather the threat of was supported by a coalition of business leaders venereal disease had far-reaching impacts on and professional altruists who argued that vice anti-vice campaigns. Social hygiene activism reform was an area where the municipal reform provided a major forum for conservative discus-


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic sion of sexuality from the turn of the century, rising to prominence with the establishment of the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA) in 1913 accompanied by the Social Hygiene journal. Organised to combat venereal disease and sex work in new ‘scientific’ ways, it represented a professionalisation of the earlier social purity movement. The integration of morality with venereal disease was a foundational pillar in the framework for understanding the cause of venereal disease and the rehabilitation of sex workers during the age of Progressivism. Across the US ‘Frontier regions’, venereal diseases were deemed societal ills to be cured, rather than the acceptable nuisances of a transient culture. In Kansas, Chapter 205 held that those accused of improper behaviour could be quarantined in the Kansas State Industrial Farm for Women (WIF). Institutionalisation of women accused of such behaviour represented the idea society could be purged of ‘impure’ diseases. Chapter 205 was the culmination of two decades of Frontier transformation, representing a socio-political shift away from established Frontier transience that fermented venereal diseases towards altruistic humanism. When this failed, reformers turned to regulation and quarantine of those with venereal disease. Quarantine proved less effective in solving the ‘impurity’ problem than was hoped, driving social reformers to more desperate attempts at ‘curing’ venereal disease through social eugenics. Reproductive sterilisations were introduced on a systematic level. Kansas thus served as the fertile breeding ground for progressive era experiments.


minority women, without trial from 1900 to 1920. The Progressive efforts to protect women, supply medical treatment, education, and vocational opportunities were overshadowed by the more punitive elements of social control, often hinging on a woman’s racial identity. White women arrested for sexual delinquency might expect rehabilitation and schooling, while non-White women frequently experienced incarceration. Similarly, White privileged women often sacrificed marginalised women to secure their own socio-political advancement. In sum, the anti-vice campaigns in the ‘Frontier regions’ can be characterised by the incubation of reform, increased state-level regulatory influence, and independent pursuit of objectives.

World War One made venereal disease a national issue, as the wartime atmosphere of sexual freedom clashed with traditional morality and concerns around soldiers’ health. In establishing the Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA), the federal government revitalised the 1910s anti-prostitution movement. US soldiers’ health became an essential responsibility of the state. In the European battlefields, American reformers found a tangible area to prove themselves. Women represented the largest perceived threat to the moral side of the war effort, simultaneously perceived as passionless angels, sexual victims, or threatening sexual aggressors. Through the developments of institutions, attempts were made to combat the spread of venereal disease. While education and recreation for men were promoted to combat venereal diseases, detention and law enforcement were used against women. World War One exacerbatThe case in San Antonio reveals the conflation ed divisions between women based on class and of anti-vice campaigns with moral and political racial identity. The modest gains made by White authority. The women’s movement sought to middle-class women, through collaboration with eradicate male sexual exploitation of women, yet anti-vice crusades, were often achieved to the women’s access to power through Progressive detriment of younger, poorer, more marginalised moral reform was severely limited. As Peggy women. Pascoe notes, female moral reformers had more success exerting moral authority over other In the spring of 1917, the federal government women than over men. Their modest successes designated both San Antonio and El Paso supply such as the appointment of female police officers depots for the army. The Social Hygiene Bulletin in San Antonio were met with scorn and swift- warned of the “serious obstacle” facing both citly rolled back by male-dominated political ma- ies is the “presence of Mexican and Indian labchines. Nationally, anti-vice campaigns incarcer- orers who are unintelligent in these matters [of ated over 15,000, predominantly working-class vice] and impatient of any regulative measures.”

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic Despite government pressure, El Paso retained a “zone of tolerance” for sex work. El Paso had made a name for itself at the end of the nineteenth century as a ‘sin city’ of the American Southwest. Historian Ann R. Gabbert highlights the town’s quasi-regulated sex work industry helped fund police salaries and keep taxes low. City leaders received political contributions from brothel keepers, fearing the alienation of voters. Fundamentally, the city’s officials believed efforts to close down vice in El Paso would merely push clients over the border into Juárez, Mexico. Efforts to curtail commercialised vice in El Paso had met with constant failure throughout the Progressive Era. Thus, in order to protect soldiers, the problem had to be stopped at the root: civilian life. Anti-vice campaigns across the United States shaped the Progressive Era. With the global spread of disease directly informing domestic manifestations of prejudice, reform, and social advancement; sex, race and, class combined in this climate of transformation. To an extent, established systems of oppression were entrenched, while concurrently breaking others down. The structure of Progressive Era society founded on idealised, intransient womanhood was increasingly challenged by women working to establish greater socio-political legitimacy. In this reform movement, citizenship was questioned on the grounds of gender, race, and class, to be incrementally recalibrated through the lens of public

health. From the victims of repression to active reformers, marginalised groups remodelled themselves for a ‘New Age’ at the outset of the twentieth-century, demonstrating the impact of moral, health convictions on the political developments of the United States.

Image: “Sex hygiene” pamphlet illustration, c.1920s, artist unknown. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


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The Metic in the Wake of the Athenian Plague By Justin Biggi Pandemics, and their disruptive socio-political consequences, are nothing new. In the aftermath of the devastating Athenian plague of 430 – 426 BC, the concept of Athenian citizenship found itself in deep crisis. Approximately one third of the Athenian population had died of the plague, leaving a weakened city (Athens was, at that point, under siege by Sparta) even more vulnerable. Rather than make citizenship more easily attainable, however, Athens closed its ranks further in the aftermath, enforcing stronger limitations on the path to naturalisation. Furthermore, refugees who had come to Athens from the surrounding territory, and whose increased numbers contributed to the rapid contagion rate, were seen with

growing suspicion. This paper will explore the shifting attitudes towards metics (non-citizens who were often active parts of the Athenian community), during and after the plague, especially concerning those metics who may have been illegally passing themselves off as citizens. By exploring the ways in which the recent epidemic changed Athenians’ ways of seeing themselves and the ‘Other’, my aim is to explore the intersection of pandemics and prejudice in Athenian history, demonstrating how the former very often led to a rise of the latter, both during and after the spread of contagion. Analysing the plague, and its effects on


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic Athens allows us to explore an already complex ideology, that of Athenian citizen identity, in the context of an incredibly difficult social, political, and public health crisis. The plague of 430 – 426 BC could not have occurred at a worse time. Athens was already facing increased pressure due to the Spartan invasion of Attika, but, at the time, victory still seemed well within its reach. The plague quickly dashed those hopes, giving way to a domino effect that resulted in Athens’ eventual defeat and surrender to Sparta in 404 BC. Medically defining the plague has been difficult, despite Thucydides’ indepth description of the symptoms. Recent studies seem to have identified the pathogen as most likely a form of typhus. The transmission seems to have occurred via a previously infected ship arriving in the port of Piraeus, which was also the city’s main source of food and goods imports. Typhus is a highly infectious disease with a high mortality rate. Its primary transmission is through physical contact with either rat fleas or body lice. Powell concludes that the Athenian plague was generated by the latter, Rickettsia prowazekii. Body lice thrive in crowded, unsanitary spaces, and are transmitted primarily through cross-contamination of unwashed clothes, hands, and hair.


demics are, amongst medical phenomenon, the ones which cause the most widespread unrest. Infection in these cases is transmissible, imminent, and invisible, pushing people towards hyperawareness. It often leads to increased reactionary sentiments, and marginalisation can occur due to “germ panic” – modern-day examples include the homophobic and racist reaction to the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic or the increased rates of anti-Asian racism in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nor do any of the exacerbated sentiments appear out of the blue. Fear simply amplifies societal prejudices that are already there. Twenty years before the Athenian plague, in 451 BC, Pericles’ citizenship decree declared that Athenian citizens were only those people born of two Athenian parents. This law is exemplary of a deeply-ingrained attitude of Athenian exceptionalism. Athenians “defined themselves, collectively, in opposition to noncitizens and slaves”. This definition was propped up by claims of a common autochthonous origin, that is, the belief that all Athenian citizens came from the same “good stock”.

Immediately following the Peloponnesian War, in 403 BC, the Periclean decree was reformulated As a result of the Spartans’ “scorched earth” mil- and reenacted. The war had been an unprecitary policy, Athens saw an influx of refugees into edented disaster for Athens, demographically, the city. Pericles had agreed to allow those flee- morally, and economically. Instead of pushing for ing the advancing Spartans to settle within the the inclusion of new potential citizens through a so-called Long Walls of the city, including that relaxation of citizenship laws, Athens closed itself section of them that connected the city to the port off, reinforcing the ideology of its exceptionalism of Piraeus, the supposed origin of the outbreak. by emphasising the autochthony upheld by the Thucydides describes in great detail the unsan- stringent citizenship decrees. This often-found itary conditions in which the refugees lived, es- expression in an increased number of court caspecially after the plague began: “[t]he dead lay es against non-citizens, most often metics. as they had died, one upon another, while others hardly alive wallowed in the streets”. Morens & Against Neaira is one of such cases. Brought Littman estimate that the Athenian population forward in 340 BC by Apollodoros and Theomrose from around 150,000 people to 350,000 nestos, it was written by the former. It is an atat the height of the war. Confined in unsanitary, tack against a woman, Neaira, who had been overcrowded allotments, the refugee population accused of feigning her citizen status. The case was seen as one of the primary sources of the is, technically, against her husband Stephanos, outbreak, despite not being the cause of it: “[t]he a political rival of both Theomnestos and Apollocrowding of the people out of the country into the doros, but it results in an ad hominem invective city aggravated the misery”. against the woman and her daughter, Phano. Though it does not contain any explicit referencPsychologically speaking, epidemics and pan- es to the plague, it is a text deeply rooted in the

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic reactionary autochthonous tendencies that the Athens”. plague and the crisis of the Peloponnesian War exacerbated. And, while the plague is not explic- In Against Neaira, the long-term effects of the itly mentioned, the war is. Athenian plague and the Peloponnesian War are evident both in Apollodoros’ rampant xenoAs part of his argument, Apollodoros recalls the phobia, as well as in his emphasis on citizenship efforts made by the Plateans in aiding Athens, being something that must be earned through from the time of the Persian War onwards. This good deeds in the service of Athens, a direct includes a stint defending Athens from a Spar- consequence of widespread Athenian exceptan and Theban attack during the Peloponnesian tionalism. The plague, a deeply traumatic event War, and Sparta’s siege and defeat of Platea in that had far-reaching consequences for Athens retaliation. For their efforts and bravery (a con- as a whole, saw refugees and immigrants often tingent of Plateans had escaped to Athens to singled out as one of the principle causes of the warn the city of the attack) they were granted illness’s spread. These sentiments were only rehonourary citizenship. Apollodoros’ emphasis on inforced after the conclusion of the Peloponnethe selfless acts of the Plateans is meant to con- sian War, and pushed the Athenian polis to seek trast with Neaira and Phano’s supposed corrup- continuous confirmation of its otherwise failing tion of the citizen body. Citizenship was an ex- exceptionalism. clusive right, that must be carefully guarded and conferred only to those who actually deserved it through acts “in the service of the people of


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How Manifest Destiny Fuelled Racial Prejudice By Finlay Cormack Manifest destiny became a prominent ideology among the newly independent American people, who believed it was their right to expand America’s territory further west. The term “manifest destiny” was first used by, journalist, John L. O Sullivan when arguing that Americans should strive to expand into the west. Sullivan specifically used the slogan in an editorial he wrote about ongoing disputes with Britain regarding Oregon and the annexation of Texas. United States officials, such as Andrew Jackson, ran on polices of expansion and creating more land for White European settlers. The reason for expansion towards the Pacific is a subject of controversy, with historians such as Mark Joy thinking it was driven by slavery whilst others, including Patricia Limerick, believe it was a desire to exterminate the indigenous population. This article will go some way into explaining why the US govern-

ment expanded westwards, focusing on racial prejudice and economic motives. Racial prejudice was the most significant reason for the American government’s policies towards westward expansion. In 1829, Andrew Jackson was elected on a platform built on prejudice against Native Americans and their forced removal from south western parts of America. The New Echota Treaty of 1835 demanded the removal of all Native Americans, specifically the Cherokee, the dominant tribe in the region, from an area spanning eight million acres. After 15,000 refused, they were immediately treated with hostility as US troops mobilized to expel people from the area by any means necessary: many were caught and taken to concentration camps. This episode exemplifies that, during periods of expansionism especially under Jackson, the White

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic settlers treated the indigenous peoples with utter disdain, and US forces were heavy handed and openly racist towards the tribes. Jackson, however, wasn’t the first president or even the first American to have the idea of forceful “Indian removal”. Policy towards Native Americans had always been to either move them further west or to “civilize” them by turning them Christian, teaching them English, and attempting to sever them from their culture entirely. The Idea of ‘civilization’ was racially motivated, illuminating the fact that westward expansion was intended to exterminate natives not only in physical sense but to eradicate identities and cultures. Richard Pratt, a US army officer had the initial idea and proof you could “civilize” natives. He slowly taught prisoners of war how to speak and act like White men, with the intention of making their actions and behaviour compatible with American beliefs. In 1830, physician Charles Caldwell wrote that, “Civilization is destined to exterminate them [Native Americans], in common with the wild animals”. Westward expansion was inevitable to a certain extent. The American Revolution left the colonists with thirteen states and a growing population that necessitated expansion to boost the economy of the newly acquired countries. Native American territories were initially settled by farmers looking for new areas of cheap and fertile agriculture. With the advancement of the American railway system, different settlers migrated to the west, looking to improve the wealth and status that they had already established in the eastern states as money was generally worth more in rural and sparsely populated western regions. The “American dream” is widely recognized today as an ideology in which people strive to make a new life for themselves in the United States; however even before the term was coined in the 20th century, the sentiment was alive and well, driving expansion for personal gains at the cost of indigenous peoples. It was US government policy before 1829 to remain at peace with indigenous Americans as far as possible, explaining why treaties were used so frequently to legitimise acquisitions. The historian Patricia Limerick explains how the perception of these treaties built the argument that Native Americans were greedy and that the White man was trying to libertate the

land for its proper farming uses. In January 1848, gold was discovered in California: the previously small, new territory with a very small settler population, was about to be a hub of global expansionism. The Gold Rush became the centre piece for economic expansion as many rushed to San Francisco in search of the rare mineral. A consequence of this was its impact on the Native American peoples of the regions, who, until this point had avoided the Jackson era of expansion and forced assimilation. The indigenous population in California decreaed by an estimated 80,000. This was the result of both the killing of buffalo, which were a primary food source, and implementation of reservations. Expansion was always violent. Westward expansion and manifest destiny became a way to legitimise anything. Political intentions combined to form the backbone of any acquisition or expansion of western land in the 1800s. Racial prejudice was fundamental to expansion, with Native Americans violently dehumanised and compared to animals and savages. American officials often went out of their way to cause harm. Andrew Jackson, for example, expanded into the west with the explicit purpose of removing indigenous populations. The need to grow the American economy was another reason to expand further into the west as they were built on an agrarian economy. However, this led to the massacres of Native American populations. This clearly illustrates that the manifest destiny of White settlers was inherently destructive and fuelled racial prejudice against Native Americans, leading to the destruction of lives, identities and, cultures.


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The Sovereignty Pandemic, the Paris Peace Conference, and the Contestation of National Space By Inge Erdal It was a bitter and violent contestation of territory throughout central and eastern Europe that confronted the peace conference that had assembled in Paris in 1919. Their mission was nothing short of reconstructing the massive wreck that was the international political system after the First World War. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, went as far as to dub it a “laboratory built over a vast cemetery”. The laboratory metaphor is an apt one, in which a new vaccine was deemed necessary to aid the plague-ridden subject. It was Woodrow Wilson who came to formulate and largely personify this remedy, one in which states formulated around self-determination would cooperate and balance each other’s interests in a League of Nations. The question left unsaid was: who would have self-determination? Or rather, over what? After all, both the emerging and seasoned states of the region contested the same territories as integral parts of their national communities, stretching in a large belt from the Baltic to the Aegean Sea and from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. This resulted in a deluge of competing claims and arguments from local powerholders and their allies in the esteemed halls of Paris.

of the new-born state’s borders was contested, with internal and external forces pushing for their vision to be realised through the sovereign powers of the Paris Peace Conference.

Cartographers were certainly among those clamouring for a new Polish state, which as a result of its particular history had many competing interpretations of what it would look like. Most influential among them was Eugeniusz Mikołaj Romer (1871-1954), born in Lwów in the Kingdom of Galicia in Austria-Hungary, now Lviv in Ukraine. That detail highlights Romer’s origins, as a descendant of an old family of the Polish aristocracy which had once run their enormous estates in the eastern parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A certain romanticism of what constituted Poland proved inescapable throughout Romer’s storied career as a geographer, working on glaciology and meteorology before compiling his most famous work, the Great Statistical and Geographical Atlas of Poland in Vienna in 1916. Naturally, this included ethnic maps of Poles in the atlas’ Plate XI, which he pictured as a heartland surrounded by a sea of scattered ‘areas of majority’ stretching deep into Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, along The principal error that could be made again, for with over half of Prussia, the southern stretches it certainly has been, is assuming the naturality of of Silesia, and of course, Galicia. Romer’s atlas these contestations. The enduring legacy of the became widely spread not only among the Polish romantic truth of these ancient nations awaking intelligentsia and would-be leaders, but also from their slumber only to find they are not alone Switzerland, albeit published in English. The in wanting a homeland. Rather, nations do not atlas became a key reference point for which rise in a day, imagined communities as they are, Wilson’s committee of geographers, historians they take time and effort to cultivate. In our case, and ethnographers formulated their response the role of cartographers, statisticians and their to the hotly contested territories the new Polish ilk in conceptualising their ethnic homelands, republic fought their neighbours over. creating foundations to be argued and fought for in the years after 1918, is something that must be Romer was by no means alone. Another son of put under the closest scrutiny. For our purposes, Lwów, Stepan Rudnyts̓kyi (1877–1937) was, unwe will largely restrict ourselves to Poland. A like Romer, Ukrainian, which reflected in his own good case study, since nearly the entire extent maps, finding far more widespread Ukrainian,


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Figure 1. The map made by Romer showing the border between Poland and Russia in red, as agreed in 1920. Image sourced from Pamięć Polski. The map is currently stored at Jagiellonian University Library in Cracow. []

which reflected in his own maps, finding far more widespread Ukrainian populations in Galicia than Polish ones. Illustrations that matched well with his own aspirations for a large, if multi-ethnic, Ukrainian state within what he considered its historical frontiers. Even in Polish nationalist circles, many people thought that Romer’s map was far too widespread to form the basis for a new nation-state. These rival currents, between a Polish dominated multi-ethnic entity following in the steps of the old Commonwealth or a more homogenous ethno-state ultimately reached a compromise with the Treaty of Riga in 1921. Ending the Polish-Soviet war and setting Poland’s eastern boundary as relatively restrained, but still including minorities, primarily Ukrainians and Byelorussians, at over 30 per cent of the population. Recreating an imperial state of sorts, which would last until the violence and deportations during and after the Second World War, leaving us with the current anachronistically homogenous entities in central and eastern Europe.

Of course, the divergence between the maps of Romer and Rudnyts̓ kyi was not just from any conscious or subconscious distortion of data, but rather from the lacklustre nature of the statistics themselves. Sloppy methodology and a general lack of consistency created unstable and conflicting visions of reality, even as they enjoyed a far greater trust by the intelligentsia than in subsequent epochs. The categories themselves were not set or agreed upon, be it ethnicity, language, or religion, resulting in Romer marking nearly all Jews in the contested regions as ‘Polish’, something that was not popular among certain nationalist circles due to a pervasive antisemitism. Conveniently, this decision assured his home province of Galicia acquired a very Polish appearance. Regardless of the clear faults of the actors involved, it is essential to recognise that no map can give an accurate representation of reality. It is after all an abstraction, where certain things have been removed or given emphasis, zoomed into,

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic or conveniently left out of the frame. As a result, maps themselves can act as agents, like Romer’s certainly did, being one of many influencing the currents and structures gravitating around the sovereignty epicentre of Paris. Foucault even argued that maps are representations of powerknowledge, creating and shaping discourse. This view can produce some odd insights, such as that maps are not really representing national space at all, but rather creating it by way of representation. After all, a general ambivalence was felt by the local populace for their rulers, even while historic regions like Silesia, Carinthia, and the Banat were partitioned so they could join their ‘homelands’. These maps, therefore, and the faulty statistics on which they were largely based, helped transform ambiguous imperial spaces into defined national ones, even as lingering minorities disrupted the desired harmony.


different state actors with autonomy and room for manoeuvre for all parties involved. It is precisely the arbitration from a perceived legitimate source, one which was exercised discursively, economically, and only militarily in a very limited sense, that the would-be nation-states within the plague zone so desired.

This arbitration was far from absolute, more of a suggestion to be negotiated rather than a command to be followed. Seemingly, even the world’s great powers in assembly demonstrated a rather limited reach. Rather, they are merely one, if the most powerful set of actors, trying to reign in the Sovereignty Pandemic plaguing not only Europe but increasingly more of the world as well; when not all too dissimilar strains would spread to Africa and Asia after an even more destructive world war. In central and eastern Europe, the plague failed to be contained That said, there is still a missing element. After properly by the conference, the League of all, they were but one instrument to justify the Nations, or the international system. A failure that sortition of territories. Nor were the maps merely was not allowed to happen again, resulting in the matters of direct military conflict, though in the brutal population transfers of millions of people east it remained an active force, seeing as they commencing in 1945, for the most part putting an all ultimately looked to the world leaders gathered end to the contested national space of the region. in Paris to arbitrate. Arbitration is the keyword In that way, the cartographers finally got what they here, as it reveals the relationship to the question wanted, with monochromatic maps to marvel, the of sovereignty. This comes from the view of Carl historic link a casualty of the pandemic. Schmitt, who famously stated that “the sovereign is he who decides on the exception”. Sovereignty is, therefore, that which has the power to decide when and how exceptions are made or rather arbitrates between competing interests and competing visions of reality. There were certainly many would-be sovereignties in central and eastern Europe at the time, even multiple ones in the same wouldbe national territory. Ukraine after all flipped through competing states in the West Ukrainian People’s Republic in eastern Galicia, and the Ukrainian Hetmanate and the Ukrainian SSR in the Russian partition area, before eventually ending up divided between Poland and the Soviet Union. Yet, it is clear that they acted in a system of scalar sovereignty to solve the “riddles” as Leonard Smith has called them. Stephen Legg dubbed these situations “Sovereignty Regimes”, where sovereign power is divided between

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The Sand Creek Massacre and the Death of Native American culture By Amy Hendrie peaceful, with efforts being made to continue this tone. However, peace did not ensue. Headed by Colonel Chivington, US troops ambushed the Cheyenne and Arapaho encampment and slaughtered around 200 Native American inhabitants. According to Captain Silas Soule, only 60 of these Indians were not women or children. An account from Robert Bent reveals that, as wom– Leg-in-the-Water en were on their knees begging for mercy, “the soldiers shot them all” and that there was seemingly “an indiscriminate killing of women and chilThe expansion of White settlers into the western dren”. Innocent people were killed, and their bodterritories of America in the nineteenth century led ies maimed by these troops – they were scalped, to the slaughter, displacement, and destruction of their genitals taken as trophies. The brutality of Native American nations and their traditional way this massacre cannot be underestimated. Such of life. The use of the word genocide can cer- horrific brutality was encouraged by Chivington tainly be applied here. Propelled by factors such in a public speech given in Denver just prior to as manifest destiny, the discovery of gold, and the massacre, in which he advocated for the killgovernment legislation such as the Homestead ing and scalping of all Native Americans, not exAct of 1862, white settlers encroached upon land cluding women and children. There is no valid already inhabited by Native American communi- justification or defence for this massacre. Even ties and took it for themselves, disregarding the Captain Silas Soule, one of the troops present Native American way of life and, indeed, quality at the massacre, deplored the acts of his fellow of life, entirely in the process. While the devas- soldiers, deeming the massacre a betrayal of tation felt by Native American nations cannot be peaceful Natives, and condemning the killing of adequately conveyed through an article, I will ex- women and children, who had “their brains beat amine the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre and the out by men professing to be civilised”. subsequent displacement of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations. This will articulate the way in The Sand Creek massacre undoubtedly dewhich the prejudice of White Americans funda- stroyed both the lives and the power of the Cheymentally ripped apart families, nations, and cul- enne and the Arapaho. Nevertheless, it did not tures, as is evident in the account of Leg-in-the- destroy their spirit. Chivington himself admits Water. that the aim of the ambush was to convince the tribes to relinquish Colorado and leave quietly, The Cheyenne and Arapaho were inhabiting a instead, it led to a thirst for revenge and jussmall encampment in Colorado at the time of tice. An alliance of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred on Sioux raided along the South Platte in January the 29 November 1864. Led by Black Kettle, of 1865, attacking wagons and military outposts. the Cheyenne and fellow chiefs had engaged in They scalped the White defenders of the town of talks with White American authorities which re- Julesburg like the US soldiers had scalped the sulted in the Cheyenne being instructed to re- women and children of Sand Creek. For many main in Sand Creek. Conditions at this time were Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, the massacre The white man has taken our country, killed all our game; was not satisfied with that, but killed our wives and children. Now no peace. We want to go and meet our families in the spirit land. We loved the whites until we found out they lied to us, robbed us of what we had. We have raised the battle axe until death.

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Image: Depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre, c.1875. Ledger drawing by Howling Wolf. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

did not silence them, it encouraged them to grow other chiefs lie there; our women and children lie louder. there. Our lodges were destroyed there, and our horses were taken from us there, and I do not Though, for the chief Black Kettle, an advocate of feel disposed to go right off to a new country and peace, an attempt at compromise was preferred. leave them. Indeed, alongside allied chiefs, he engaged in talks with representatives of the US govern- Here it is painfully clear that the displacement ment. Unsurprisingly, the representatives did not of Native American tribes happening across the have their best interests at heart. They sought Plains, was not simply a matter of moving to a to encourage Black Kettle to relinquish all rights new house. Native American spiritualty was irto Colorado, so that white settlers could assert revocably tied to the land. Indeed, when examownership of the land. In addition to this, gold ining the case of the Black Hills in South Dakota, had been found in Colorado, leading to a swarm deemed sacred by the Lakota tribe, the disregard of settlers headed their way. Little Raven, pres- held by the US government for the preservation ent at the meeting, eloquently describes the way of Native American culture is illuminated. To the in which this effort on the part of the US govern- Lakota, the Black Hills were a site where they ment would prove detrimental to the livelihood could spiritually connect with their ancestors, and culture of these nations: where they went to receive their adult names and come of age. The hills were an integral part There at Sand Creek – White Antelope and many of the spiritual life of the Lakota. Then, when gold


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic was discovered in the hills, the agreements and the Fort Laramie Treaty which originally protected this area from white settlers dissolved at the prospect of a gold rush. The US government’s response was one of inaction, not taking any measures to prevent white settlers from breaking the treaty and encroaching upon Lakota territory in search of gold. Essentially, the wealth of White Americans was deemed more important than the lifestyle and culture of the Lakota. The same was true for the Cheyenne and Arapaho as they were instructed to leave Colorado, to leave the site that anchored them to their dead, to their fallen loved ones. Black Kettle agreed to the move, seeing no other option of peace was to be found. And so, the Cheyenne and Arapaho were uprooted, displaced, and torn from their spiritual and ancestral roots. I would argue that, as well as lives being lost at the Sand Creek massacre, there was another death that occurred as a result of the confinement of Native Americans to reservations – that of a way of life. As briefly discussed in the previous paragraph, Native American nations were in many ways rooted to the land on which they lived, thus the displacement of tribes eradicated this relationship with their land and aspects of their spirituality. The destruction of the way of life for Plains Indians does not stop there. A key and frightening reality of how Native American culture was whittled away was through the removal of children from their families once they reached reservations and placing them in board-


ing schools. A process which aimed to ‘kill the Indian, save the man’, according to Captain Richard H. Pratt, an army officer who headed the Carlisle Indian School. At such schools, a child would be forbidden from speaking their mother tongue and instead only speaking English, facing severe punishment for disobedience. The rationale here was to assimilate these children into white American society, reducing the child’s traditional culture to memory alone. This stripping away of identity was a cultural massacre. The diminishing presence of Native Americans on the Great Plains was no accident. At every turn, hostile individuals such as Colonel Chivington and Captain Pratt aimed to destroy Native Americans, in body and in identity. The list of such criminals is long. General Custer of little Big Horn fame, Colonel Sheridan and many more deserve to be discussed and condemned in detail. Guilty too was the American government on a federal and state level. While the government openly deplored events such as the Sand Creek massacre, they either broke or ignored treaties they brokered with Native American chiefs, as is clear in the example of the Black Hills and the Lakota. In this way, the government facilitated the demise of Native American culture. This area of history has been understudied and largely ignored. This is a mistake. The genocide of Native Americans is woven into the fabric of US history and deserves as much attention as the cliché study of presidential rivalries.

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Edinburgh’s Infrastructure, the Spread of Disease and the Plague Outbreak of 1645 By Melissa Kane In the early modern era, the city of Edinburgh as we know today was largely constrained to the Old Town and the Royal Mile, stretching from the castle to Holyrood Palace. Most of the population was constrained within this approximate square mile with the Flodden Wall to the south (remnants of which can still be seen in Greyfriars Kirkyard and Pleasance), as well as the Nor Loch to the North (modern-day Princes Street Gardens). However, in the sixteenth century, a growing population of 12-15,000 individuals within the limited walls resulted in two unique features that defined early modern Edinburgh: the building of its ‘skyscrapers’, and the outbreak of deadly disease within them. Although this definition in no way fits our modern interpretation of such buildings, the limits of the city forced construction to move upwards instead of downwards, growing “taller and ever taller” throughout the period. These features can be seen most in areas such as the Royal Mile where tenements could reach six stories in height, with the highest behind Parliament Close, where buildings reaching down to the Cowgate could be as many as twelve stories. These developments are illustrated in a map produced by James Gordon of Rothiemay (fig. 1) which demonstrates the narrow tenements and complex, cramped infrastructure of the city, particularly towards the West of the Royal Mile and the Castle. However, by the seventeenth century, the population had grown yet again, with an estimated increase of around 20,000 individuals cited in the 1630s ‘housemails tax’ records. The ‘housemails tax’ was a one-off tax on house rent that allowed it to reconstruct tenement topographies, houseby house, which extended to around 30,000 by the 1690s in the Canongate area alone. This placed a growing strain on city housing, with multiple occupancy houses becoming more and

more common. As one resident stated, “I am not sure that you will find anywhere so many dwellings and such a multitude of people in so small space as in this city of ours”. These households often contained large families sharing single rooms in tenements and “narrow shamble of timber and thatch”, along with steep, dark and dirty staircases that opened straight onto the urban streets and closes. This was only the beginning of the hygiene issues of the city in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with one of the most pressing issues being the state of the public streets. Throughout the medieval and early modern period, the structure of the city did not include sewers or drainage and instead most waste was thrownn


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic directly into the street. In some areas such as the Fleshmarket Close, where many of the butcheries were placed, the streets were designed so that any blood, fluids or remnants from slaughter ran straight into the Nor’ Loch, or through Cockburn Street as we know it today. This often gave the impression that the “streets [were] almost obliterated in dirt”, the same streets where food was prepared, children played, and the markets were held. In June of 1634, an Englishman named Sir William Brereton visited the city, whereupon he made several critical comments about the lack of hygiene in Edinburgh’s streets (although it may indeed stem from English prejudice): “The city is placed in a dainty, healthful pure air, and doubtless were a most healthy place to live in, were not the inhabitants most sluttish, nasty and slothful people. I could never pass through the hall, but I was constrained to hold my nose […] This street, which may indeed deserve to denominate the whole city, is always full thronged with people.” These conditions were inherently an issue of Edinburgh’s clinical condition, but they were also a demonstration of its demographic population. Many tenants living in these conditions were some of the poorest of Edinburgh’s population, based towards the Castle end of the city, which as seen in Rothiemay’s map, is where building structure is the most cramped and overpopulated. On the contrary,

in the Canongate area of the city and outside of the Flodden Wall, housing was much more spaced out, as seen in the map with large and luxurious gardens. These areas were populated by many “noble and genteel families” who could afford to live closer to the Scottish court at Holyrood and away from the built-up landscape of inner Edinburgh. The inevitable result of these conditions was the outbreak of plague. Edinburgh, as with many other European cities had faced outbreaks of disease from the twelfth century Black Death, until the nineteenth century outbreak of cholera as a direct result of inadequate living conditions, which unfairly affected those at the lowest end of society who could not afford large, clean spaces.


as Mary Kings Close shut up and “almost altogether buried” to slow the spread of infection and prevent further exposure, but trapping those left behind inside. It was not for another 80 years after the plague of 1645 that specific directions were brought in by authorities to solve the persistent issue of living conditions in these areas, stating that: “streets and houses be […] diligently and carefully as may be kept. The streets washed and cooled [and] brimstone burnt plentifully in any room or place.”

However, it would be over 200 years before the introduction of sanitary districts by Henry Littleton would truly transform the hygienic reputation of the The impact of the 1645 Plague, city, changes which were only however, was one of the most fully implemented after the devastating and the worst to Cholera outbreak of the 1830s. ever hit the city, killing up to The mistakes of the Old Town 50% of the population. Corpses infrastructure did have a great were said to have littered the impact on the design of the New closes as the infected fell in Town in the 1760s and, instead their tens of thousands, and of high and narrow closes, the numerous burial pits were roads of New Town are wider commissioned to tend to the and much more open to allow never-ending parade of the for movement and cleanliness. dead. The effects of the plague However, once again these lay heavy on the city, with one privileges were only available scholar stating that “only sixty to the highest and wealthiest of citizens were fit to carry arms” society, allowing those of lower in the event of an English station and wealth to yet again invasion. It is undoubtable succumb to the prejudices of to infer that these tragedies their lower social status and would have disproportionately become the inevitable victims affected those living in the of disease. unhygienic conditions to the West where people could not afford to leave their homes, resulting in many areas such

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Racialised Disease: The Bubonic Plague in Honolulu, 1899-1900 By Sofia Parkinson Klimaschewski On December 12, 1899, the Board of Health publicly announced the first bubonic plague death in Honolulu. Yon Chong, a 22-year-old Chinese bookkeeper working out of Chinatown had fallen ill three days earlier. Suspicions arose quickly when buboes – painful swellings of the lymph nodes occurring in the latter stages of infection – began forming on his body. To elucidate the situation, the attending physician asked for a further, jointly conducted diagnosis, quickly confirming his original hypothesis. The Plague had re-emerged in 1855 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. Slow to spread, it ultimately reached the commercial cities of Guangzhou and Hong Kong in 1899. With an expanding global economy, the disease continued to advance uncontrollably along existing trade routes. When the Nippon Maru steamer, carrying a passenger thought to have succumbed to the plague en route, reached Honolulu in May 1899, the ship was immediately ordered to quarantine. This precaution, however, failed to contain the disease, as flea-infested rats readily disembarked.

with 5% sulfuric acid solution and bichloride of mercury’ whilst outhouses were destroyed, and new cesspools dug. Following the discovery that multiple sick people were being hidden by kin, there was an expansion of the corps of inspectors, and the act of neglecting ‘to give information which would result in sickness being found’, thereby obstructing ‘a health officer or an agent in the performance of his duty’, was introduced into law as a misdemeanour.

Chinatown’s quarantine was not borne simply out of epidemiological concerns. Rather, there was widespread belief that Asian residents’ contagion might endanger the wider, especially white settler, community. The systematic scapegoating of Asian immigrants, most predominantly seen in Pacific harbour towns affected by the Third Plague pandemic, was prevalent throughout this period: the ‘Yellow Peril’ was directly linked to the spread of infectious disease. Further sanitary measures introduced during the pandemic in Honolulu – annexed in 1898– directly mirrored widespread development in public health authorAt the turn of the twentieth century, Honolulu’s ities’ depiction of Chinese immigrants as ‘filthy Chinatown was a diverse, predominantly non- and diseased’ in mainland USA. This assertion white neighbourhood housing around 10,000 extended itself to further judgements in relaresidents, most of whom were Chinese, Japa- tion to afflictions such as smallpox and syphilis. nese, or Native Hawaiian. Harbouring the city’s On December 24, the BOH entrusted a special first plague-related fatalities, a military-imposed Commission of Three with the task of investicordon sanitaire was quickly erected around gating the conditions in Chinatown. Their report the district. Residents, however, could be made concluded with the statement: exempt if given daily permits by the Board of Health (BOH) after receiving a medical inspec- ‘Plague lives and breeds in filth and when it got tion. These were almost exclusively granted to to Chinatown, it found its natural habitat’ – Dr. C. immigrants working as servants for affluent white B. Wood, territory of Hawaii. families. Besides quarantine, the board introduced routine house-to-house inspections led This fallacy had originated in connection to conby community volunteers. These were aimed at cepts of white supremacy borne out of previous tracking down unidentified cases and their con- colonial encounters. Some had noted that ‘white tacts for isolation and locating ‘infected premis- people in Asia’, mostly British expatriates living es’, which were then ‘required to be disinfected in colonial India or Hong Kong, ‘were less likely


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to contract plague’ when compared to locals. They attributed this to their inherent racial superiority rather than clear lifestyle advantages, with the expatriates living within closed compounds, removed from the crowded and deprived communities outside.

nally fumigated and brutally inspected for signs of Plague as white guards watched.


struction through daily updated maps of Chinatown. However, on January 20, strong winds caused flying embers to land on With harbours closed, Honolu- the wooden steeples of a local lu was at a complete economic church, resulting in a massive standstill. As pressure mounted fire which rapidly spread across to re-open the city, more dras- the neighbourhood. As pantic sanitation methods were in- icked citizens tried to flee, the troduced by the BOH: starting National Guard refused to break The commission’s recommend- in January, every home or es- the cordon sanitaire. When one ed steps for the sanitisation of tablishment where Plague was exit was finally opened, white Chinatown were more widely found was to be burnt down. residents sporting makeshift adopted by the newly created They had deliberated that: weapons ensured that victims Citizen’s Sanitary Commis- fire would destroy the plague were all placed into detention sion. Non-white residents from gems, kill rats, cleanse the soil camps, tightly controlled by ‘infected’ areas were taken to and open it up to the purifying armed guards. Nevertheless, disinfection stations and sub- influences of sun and air, and new cases continued to appear sequently moved to the wider would prevent any occupancy until late March. Isolated fires quarantine district. Any valua- of the premises until a safe pe- were also identified on the isbles previously on their person riod of time had elapsed. land of Hawai’i and Kahului on were taken away, never to be Maui, where another Chinatown returned. Furthermore, all - in- In the first few weeks, these was burned down in an effort to dependent of age or sex - were intentional fires remained con- control contagion. forcibly stripped of their clothes trolled, with readers of the Honand belongings, to be commu- olulu Adviser tracking the de- The fire left an estimated 7,000

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic Chinese and Japanese immigrants homeless and deprived of ‘many of their enterprises and livelihoods’. Mismanaged and inadequate compensation schemes led by the American government, paid only eighteen months later, had long term socio-economic implications and resulted in the widespread, permanent dispersal of Asian immigrant populations throughout Honolulu. Despite the association between rats and plagues having already been recognised, (even if clear scientific evidence was still lacking), officials remained convinced that racial minorities were spreading the ‘Asiatic plague’. This fearmongering continued throughout the early-twen-

tieth century, especially in the western United States, with catastrophic consequences during the plague outbreak felt in San Francisco, which saw the initial introduction of equally ineffective public health measures. The economic and political pressure to ‘act quickly’ upon the outbreak of the plague, when such action was informed by racialised constructions of disease, set in motion a civic disaster with social and political consequences extending far beyond the initial tragedy.


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Plague in Bombay in the Late 19th Century: When Colonial Medicine gets Political and Politics Meets the People By Lucy Parfitt The plague in Bombay - part of the third plague pandemic (1855-1960) - is seldom discussed in comparison to the Black Death of early modern Europe which inspires popular images of beaked plague doctors, a dirty, chaotic, and overcast London town, and the death of around half of Europe’s population. No such motifs exist in the Western imagination surrounding the third plague pandemic nor epidemics that touched the non-western world. Yet the bubonic plague did indeed re-visit Europeans, not on their own soil, but in many of the lands they had colonised. The pandemic killed 12 million people worldwide and primarily impacted China, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and crucially, India, where 10 million people succumbed to the disease. Bombay particularly, where the Indian plague outbreak began, experienced a high mortality rate, a mass exodus from the city into the Indian interior, and, arguably, political chaos. Whilst this can be told as a tragic story of death, failure of a colonial state, violent colonial intervention and the colonies once more becoming the laboratory for western science, it also provides us with an example of how Western medicine was ridden with anxiety, uncertainty and disagreement and how – when colonial sci-

ence met with colonial subjects – resistance and bargaining took place.

sand mill-hands attacked Arthur Road Hospital in protest of segregation measures, and his own sanitation staff, who were The outbreak of plague in Bom- made up of low-caste imported bay, hesitantly acknowledged labourers, seemed sympathetic by the municipality’s commis- to this resistance. Furthermore, sioner Mr. P. C. H. Snow in between October 1896 and October 1896, was initially met February 1897, up to 380,000 with a thorough urban sanita- people fled the city in panic - not tion campaign focusing on the necessarily from the disease itdestruction of property suspect- self, but from increasingly draed to be infected and the wider conian colonial intervention. disinfection of the city through Snow wanted to be especially lime-washing and scattering cautious and avoid alarming carbolic acid. Snow, a sen- the city’s sanitation auxiliaries ior member of the Indian Civ- claiming, “on their presence or il Service (ICS), had also had absence, respectively, dependhis 1888 Municipal Act powers ed the safety or ruin of this vast extended, which allowed him and important city” - he predictto segregate, by force if nec- ed their departure from Bomessary, any suspected plague bay could convert the rapidly victims in hospitals. However, expanding port city, central to Snow was reluctant to carry out the colonial project and colonial widespread forced segrega- governance, “into a vast dungtion, knowing full well that such hill of putrescent ordure” within measures flouted the inhabit- a fortnight. ants varied cast, religious, and gender customs and that there However, Snow quickly came was little mutual understanding into the firing line for his ‘soft’ about the intentions and bene- approach to the pandemic by fits of Western biomedicine. He a committee of bacteriologists had internalised a fear, stem- and physicians, which included ming from the 1857 mutiny, of a delegate from the Indian Govdirect intervention into Indian ernment, Professor Haffekin. affairs and causing offence - he This conflict reflected both the did not underestimate Bom- opportunism of individual strugbay’s populations capacity for gles for professional recognition collective resistance. as well as fundamental disagreements in theories of health Snow’s fears were confirmed occurring at the time. Worboys when on October 29, one thou- and Arnold have both written

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic

about a paradigm shift in scientific discourses in this period where theories of health transitioned from spatially confining “disease to the tropics” in miasma, humeral and climatic theories of health, to considering certain diseases themselves to be tropical with the rise of Germ Theory. This manifested itself in different approaches to health intervention, with the senior sections of the IMS and ICS, including Snow, subscribing to sanitation policies and efforts to reform personal hygiene and ‘undesirable’ cultural practices. In comparison, the younger bacteriologists who dominated the lower ranks of the IMS, lobbied for racialised policies of systematic segregation, access to Indian bodies to conduct autopsies, and forced inoculation which they saw as necessary in

their pursuit of pathogens at the site of the human body itself.

ple of how public health policy contributed to the intimate and violent colonisation of Indian Controversially, Snow was re- bodies. Private property was placed in his public health duties destroyed, health surveillance by Brigadier General Gatacre’s increased, caste practices and commission in March 1897 and customs like purdah were disthe Epidemic Disease Act was regarded, and the population of passed by Viceroy Lord Elgin; a Bombay was consistently substate of near martial law was es- jected to the Western medical tablished in Bombay where the gaze – alien for many and ofarmy organised medical inter- ten without consent or mutual ventions, being given the green understanding of intent. Caste, light to do whatever they con- gender, and religious considsidered necessary in dealing erations were thought of as with the pandemic. This com- merely superstitious obstacles mittee focused on policing the by Gatacre and his committee movements of the Indian popu- – the creation of private caste lation, intensifying hospital seg- hospitals being considered the regation policies, quarantining financially burdensome solution passengers on ships suspect- to Indian resistance to segregaed of carrying the disease, and tion – constructing the Indian intercepting railway travellers. population as if in opposition to The next year of intervention the cool-headed rationality of can be considered an exam- Western science and biomedi-


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic cine. In addition, the initial consensus – united in a common dislike for Snow – between bacteriologists and Gatacare’s committee was short lived, with Arnold arguing that bacteriology was not seamlessly converted into the language and methods of administration. Gatacre believed that something more than contagion was causing transmission, suggesting that, alongside the plague bacillus, the “generally insanitary conditions of person, clothing [and] habitation” were also to blame. Professor Haffekine remained adamant that his inoculation serum was the Government of India’s best bet and remained committed to demonstrating his, and bacteriology’s, professional worth to the colonial project. Therefore, not only had sanitarians contributed to discourses which imagined India and Indians as the site of filth and infestation – betraying their anxiety to justify and buttress colonial rule based on racial stereotypes – bacteriologists and the new committee in Bombay – with their underestimation of Indian resistance, agency and own traditional understandings of health – positioned Indians as opposed to scientific progress, and thus ‘civilisation’. Indeed, Bombay’s population did resist – in direct and outright rioting as well as through more covert acts of non-cooperation. For example, the vernacular press published exposés about hospitals disregarding pollution-related rituals and customs for high-caste Hindus and the molestation of Muslim women. Furthermore, many Indians concealed friends and family who were showing symptoms of plague. General discontent culminated in riots in Bombay throughout 1897, further attacks on Arthur Road Hospital, and the assassination of W. C. Rand, who oversaw plague policy in the nearby city of Pune.


sonal and theoretical – illustrate how scientific institutions are very much political and social and, when put under strain, represent sites for crises of confidence. Colonial medicine itself, supposedly the symbolic embodiment of Western benevolence, ironically undermined ideological arguments for British superiority and justifications for Britain’s right and duty to colonise. It is also important to note that in February-March 1897, the international sanitary conference had taken place in Venice, where the international community requested the full quarantining of ships planning to dock at Bombay. Gatacre’s new plague regime was therefore supposed to signal to the international community that the British were taking the outbreak seriously; ultimately, it was an anxiety-driven performance of public health intervention and indicated an awareness of the vulnerability of Britain’s rule in India in its reliance on internal order and international sanction. By 1898, the India Office in London deemed Gatacre and his committee to have overstepped, the Government of India being compelled to recognise that force was counterproductive in controlling the plague pandemic and that unrest was too risky: 1857 loomed in the imperialist imagination. Measures were liberalised, hospital segregation and inoculation becoming voluntary, with the 1900 Indian Plague Commission encouraging the consultation of indigenous leaders.

This brief episode in British colonial history reminds the historian that medicine and scientific institutions should not be exempt from historical analysis and that medicine was never founded and formalised on simply collective benevolence. Colonial medicine was limited by its own internal politics and competing theories of health, international expectations and the global economy, as well as the material and social realities it was met with in its host society. It was this vulnerable The establishment’s attempt to regain formal institution of Western Science and biomedicine control internally – between the army, the Gov- upon which Britain largely predicated its superiernment of India, IMS and ICS – and externally ority and civilisation, thus their right and duty to on the streets of Bombay, detailed painstakingly colonise – and it hung in a fine balance. in Gatacre’s extensive 1897 Report, reveals the tensions within colonial science and western biomedicine. Despite western biomedicine being premised on its universality and relationship to natural law, these conflicts – professional, per-

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic

Early Christian Responses to the Antonine Plague as an Illustration of Distinctiveness Within the Roman World By Alex Smith There is a diversity amongst scholarship as to what can be defined as Christian in the first few centuries CE.  When the terms ‘Christianity’ and ‘Christian(s)’ are used in this article, they will be used to refer to the movement that centred around Jesus of Nazareth and the people who would have recognised each other as fellow members of the movement that became what we now call Christianity. This movement has been defined by scholars, such as Larry Hurtado, as “proto-orthodox Christianity” which is the definition that will be applied here. The term ‘pagan(s)’ will be used in the same way as was used by Roman historians at the time, when referring to ways of worshiping that were not Jewish or Christian.

there were similarities between Christianity and the culture around it. However, despite these similarities, the differences meant that early Christianity stood out in the Roman Empire. Larry Hurtado wrote in his book, Destroyer of the Gods: “In the eyes of many of that time, early Christianity was odd, bizarre, in some ways even dangerous. For one thing, it did not fit what “religion” was for people then. Indicative of this, Roman-era critics designated it as a perverse “superstition.””

Within the context of the second and third centuries CE, the early Christians had very different motivations and ways of expressing their faith to the pagans. One of the ways in which this point is illustrated is in how Scholars still discuss to what the early Christians and the extent the early Christians were pagans responded to the Antodistinctive in their ancient Ro- nine plague.   man context. Christianity was influenced by both the Gre- The Roman world was full of co-Roman world and its Jewish gods. There were the Greek and origins, and this has been well Roman pantheons, city gods attested too. They are not the such as Artemis of Ephesus, lofocus of this article but for an cal gods in areas such as Phryin-depth analysis of the ways gia, Syria and Egypt, household in which Christianity reflected gods, and spirits linked to placthe world it was born in, Arthur es like bridges. These religions Darby Nock’s Conversion: The centred around practice, sacriOld and the New in Religion fice, and divination, rather than from Alexander the Great to doctrine and formal instruction. Augustine of Hippo and Gillian They had a major public aspect Clark’s Christianity and Roman to them where entire commuSociety are excellent books. nities would take part. Religion These influences meant that was not a separate category

to anything else, as it is often thought of today, but instead was interwoven into the rest of life. Communities would take part in sacrifices, professional guilds took part in rituals to their patron deities during meetings, and the imperial system rested upon claims of divine validation. There were also many new religious movements, including the “mystery cults”, examples of which include the cults of Isis and Mithras. Among these, the Christians still stood out for many reasons. It was the first properly “bookish” religion and it provided people with a completely new identity. More importantly, it was a new type of religion that led to a new type of behaviour. Pagan religions were more focused on rituals and religious observances than how individuals lived. As Hurtado puts it, ‘Roman-era religion did not typically have much to say on what we might term “ethics”.’ Instead, teachings on behaviour were in the realm of philosophy. In this aspect, early Christianity could more easily be compared to contemporary philosophy than contemporary religions. For example, the philosopher Musonius Rufus agreed with the early Christians on matters such as sexual ethics and his views on drunkenness.      However, when it came to how they responded to the Antonine plague, the early Christian and pagan responses were very dif-


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic ferent. A plague is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as “a very infectious disease that spreads quickly and kills large numbers of people.” Rooted in the difference in religious traditions, the difference in response is an illustration of the argument made by Hurtado and others, such as Rodney Stark, that early Christianity was distinctive in the Roman Empire. The Antonine plague struck the Roman Empire in 165 CE and the first wave lasted until c.180 CE. R.J. Littman and M.L. Littman have made a conservative estimate that between 7-10 million people died. This included Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius’ co-emperor, in 169 CE and Marcus Aurelius himself in 180 CE. There is evidence to suggest that it was caused by the arrival of smallpox – until this point unheard of in the Mediterranean – brought by Verus’ soldiers from the East.   Dionysius, the Bishop of Corinth, gives us one of our only eyewitness accounts of the Antonine plague in his letters preserved by the historian Eusebius. He describes the Christians as showing ‘unbounded joy and loyalty’, that they were ‘never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another’. He talks about how they cared for those who were ill and nursed them as best they could. This resulted in more people who caught the plague surviving, although some of those who cared for them sacrificed themselves so that others might live. In contrast, Dionysius said that the pagans abandoned the sick and dying and tried to get away from those who were ill. He



know about the Roman Empire. The famous physician Galen “At the first onset of the dis- fled Rome during the Antonine ease, they pushed the suffer- plague, and no one saw this ers away and fled from their as unusual or as disreputadearest, throwing them into the ble in any way. Rodney Stark roads before they were dead goes into further detail about and treated unburied corpses the reliability of Dionysius’ acas dirt, hoping thereby to avert count, which there is not space the spread and contagion of the in this article to talk about, in his fatal disease; but do what they book, The Rise of Christianity.  might, they found it difficult to escape.”   There were reasons why early Christianity had a much greater What he wrote sounds extreme, social impact, and responded but it matches other things we differently to the plague, than

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic the contemporary philosophers of the time. Musonius and those like him focused on a few students rather than trying to change larger groups of people or society in general. In contrast, the early Christians promoted a radical change of behaviour amongst all believers from the moment of baptism. There was also a difference in motivations. The Stoics appealed to an abstract concept of an individual’s dignity as a human being and the Epicureans were motivated by an idea of “untroubled calm” in their lives. The early Christians appealed to divine commands and the responsibilities that the believers had to each other. Arthur Knock, classicist and theologian at Harvard, wrote that ‘there is no doubt that this love of brethren was altogether more lively and more far-reaching in Christianity’ when comparing the early Christians and their contemporaries.  Their actions were rooted in their belief in what their God had done for them and their love for each other.

portant things. Firstly, that early Christianity was not always unique in the behaviour it advocated for but was often better at applying it. Secondly, and more importantly for this article, when Galen’s words are matched with his actions, it is clear that the virtues he celebrated did not include the group responsibilities and self-sacrifice felt by the early Christians. This is not to say that the pagans did not have any concept of self-sacrifice, only that it was different to that held by the early Christians and that it was a lower priority within Galen’s worldview.

Overall, the Antonine plague and the responses to it illustrate the distinctiveness of early Christianity in the second and third centuries CE within the context of the Roman Empire. The difference between the early Christians and important figures such as Galen adds further weight to the arguments made by academics, such as Larry Hurtado and Rodney Stark, that the early Christians stood out amongst their contemporaries. It It is interesting to see what Galen, the famous does not mean that the Christians and pagans physician who fled Rome, said about the Chris- did not share some common values but that tians. His main criticism was that they were too there was a fundamental difference in some arrooted in assertions of divine revelation rather eas and how these beliefs and values affected than in philosophy. At the same time, he admired how people lived and related to each other.   their virtues and, in particular, their ‘keen pursuit of justice’. He was impressed that the early Christians, the majority of whom were from lower social classes, demonstrated philosophical virtues in a way that ‘matched genuine philosophers’, even though they had not had philosophical training. Galen’s comments show us two im-


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic

COVID-19 and the Disease of Systematic Racism By Grace Smith As the COVID-19 pandemic has developed, analysis has demonstrated the extent to which COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted black people and people of colour (POC). In the UK, for example, a government report found that 36 per cent of patients who were critically ill with COVID-19 were part of an ethnic minority, despite making up just 13 per cent of the population. To understand these disturbing statistics, we must look to the foundations of modern science itself, which, in combination with systemic racism, has created a reality where racism is embedded within the disciplines of science and medicine. This has caused a number of problems, leaving ethnic minorities vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic. The relationship between people of ethnic minorities and healthcare is deeply damaged by both past and present experiences, and black people and POC continue to face health disparities because of racism within healthcare. Finally, systemic racism’s impact on factors such as housing, has left black people and POC in disproportionately vulnerable positions regarding their health.

the natural order of things, with some being naturally inferior because of significant genetic differences between races. In reality, modern scientific studies have shown that all humans share 99.9 per cent of their DNA, meaning race is a social construct and consistently shaped by society’s social and political ideals. The resulting racial hierarchy that these pseudoscientific ideas created, unsurprisingly placed the Caucasian race as superior to all others. An example of this pseudoscience is the work of mid-nineteenthcentury American anthropologist Samuel Morton, who theorised that human intelligence was connected to brain size. He measured various skulls from across the world, concluding that white people were superior because they had larger skulls compared to any other race. These false arguments of biological difference are significant because they have persisted for centuries and remain harmful.

The idea that all non-white people were physically and mentally inferior was turned to at a time when the reality of slavery was being threatened by abolitionist ideas. In the eighteenth The rise of modern scientific thought can and nineteenth centuries, a form of supposedly be traced back to the Enlightenment of the scientific justification for slavery was sought seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, an by those who wanted to uphold the practice. intellectual movement across Europe where Consequently, black people had to be shown reason began to be stressed in all aspects of to be inferior, even to the extent that they were thought, including science. The Enlightenment presented as an ‘untamed’ people who had to be and its enduring ideas in the West were evidently enslaved for their ‘own good’. Thomas Jefferson Eurocentric and based on the intellectual ideas made some deeply damaging and influential of white men, and therefore reflected the biases contributions to racial pseudoscience, despite his and prejudices of these men. Amongst this claim that all men were created equal, arguing so-called rational approach to science as a that black people’s inferiority was obvious from professional discipline, there was a desire to observing his own slaves. The deeply insidious explain the supposed racial differences observed nature of the attempt to justify slavery through a across the world. Consequently, there was a manufactured concept of inferiority was identified growth in racial science from the early eighteenth by Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person century and into the nineteenth century, based and one of the US’s most prominent opponents on the proponents’ desire for a ‘categorisation’ to slavery in the nineteenth century, when he of humans by race. They believed that humans stated that “the whole argument in defence of are divided into separate races as a result of slavery becomes utterly worthless the moment


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic the African is proved to be equally a man with the Anglo-Saxon”. White people sought to dehumanise black people through science, and this racist concept of inferiority has continued to infiltrate today’s world, even if the language has changed. Historian Ibram X. Kendi argues that “what black inferiority meant has changed in every generation . . . but ultimately Americans have been making the same case”. The language of dehumanisation against black people and POC as a way to view them as separate, to view them as if they were ‘animals’ who needed to be controlled, persists today in different forms. There are various historic examples of black people’s bodies being used for the progress of medicine and science without their consent. An illuminating example is that of J. Marion Sims, a celebrated American physician who developed the vaginal speculum in the mid-nineteenth century. Yet Sims developed this great achievement for


gynaecology with the motivation of curing VVF in enslaved black women, to ensure they would continue to produce healthy children as slaves, and through experimenting on fourteen black women he himself had enslaved. He performed surgery on them without anaesthesia because of the commonly held belief that black people experienced less pain than white people. The impact of this can even be seen today in the experiences of black women, who are five times more likely to die during childbirth than white women in the UK, as highlighted by the Five Times More campaign. A relatively recent example is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, from 1932 to 1972, where African American men were studied to measure the effects of untreated syphilis, despite not being informed of their status or offered treatment, instead believing they were receiving free healthcare. Is it any wonder that the racist foundations of modern science would have a continuing impact on the scientific discipline as it exists today,

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic experiences where medical professionals receive racism from the patients they are treating, or from fellow white colleagues within their discipline. As aforementioned, the abuse of black bodies throughout history in medicine has understandably led many black people and POC to view the healthcare system with distrust and avoid interaction with this sphere unless absolutely necessary. The medical system remains a product of systemic racism, and this is further highlighted by the under-representation of black Americans in U.S. clinical trials, occurring partly because of their concerns about the trustworthiness of medical professionals. Secondly, systemic racism as a whole has contributed to health disparities because of the impact it has had on factors including housing, employment opportunities, wealth and pre-existing health conditions. Public Health England’s report on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities demonstrates how racism and social inequality play a role in the disproportionate impact of the virus. Therefore, when the current Conservative government argue in the same breath that ethnicity should not be considered a main factor in COVID’s impact, and that other factors such as housing should be focused on, they are actively ignoring the fact that these other factors are interlinked with race by necessity. In terms of solutions, the medical sphere needs to rebuild trust with black people, POC, and their communities, enact anti-racism training for all medical staff and have a no tolerance attitude towards racism to prevent the all-too-common mistreatment people have faced. The sciences and medical fields need to be diversified, because underrepresentation is clear and greater representation improves the discipline as a whole by challenging engrained biases. In another strain, education, including in the UK, needs to be widely improved to give the general public far greater awareness of the racist roots of science, as well as of the systemic racism that continues to shape our world. There is a vast range of resources white people can learn from, including Edinburgh’s own RACE.ED, a network dedicated to showcasing research and teaching on matters of race and decolonial studies. Evidently, systemic racism as a whole must be dismantled, including


through recognising racism’s impact on wealth, housing and job opportunities. Black people and POC are disproportionately represented in lower income and consequently often frontline jobs, factors contributing to how COVID has impacted these groups. World disasters have always served to illuminate the problems within our societies. We must grasp this opportunity to enact real systemic change in the hopes of never repeating such loss of life based on racist structures. COVID-19 has demonstrated more than ever that the vastness and seriousness of systemic racism cannot be overstressed. It is, and has always been, a matter of life and death.

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic

The Rise and Fall of the British Union of Fascists: Anti-Semitism and International Fascism By Lucy Thomas-Stanton In 1932, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) was the rising star of British politics. Nazi-enthusiast and Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere had pledged his support, and the Mail ran a slew of sympathetic articles, including 1934’s unapologetic “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”. Yet this ‘success story’ was to be short-lived: by 1935, BUF membership had peaked at 50,000, and terminal ideological contradictions within the party were already beginning to reveal themselves. The BUF had made a conscious effort to distinguish themselves from the German Nazis in 1932, yet the party was increasingly viewed as a “pallid imitation of a foreign creed”. They were slowly adopting the violent and deeply prejudicial tendencies that had already marred fascist regimes, desperate for attention and financial support from Hitler and Mussolini. By the mid-1930s, the ideological elements that had rendered the party so specifically ‘British’ had been lost in a sea of generic, passionately racist, antisemitic and (ironically) internationalist fascism.

and author of The Jungle Book) and Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts, who extolled the frontier ethic) were held up as fascist exemplars. Conquerors and explorers were worshipped figures; these Britons of old were deemed intrepid, masculine, and willing to risk their necks in the name of empirebuilding. Post-war Britain was regrettably ‘soft’ by comparison, with a feminine concern for democracy and a supposed reluctance to exert power and aggression abroad. The White, manly English colonialist was also defined in relation to colonised peoples. Indians, for instance, were supposedly afflicted with “native hysteria”, which left them unable to govern themselves. However, the BUF were not particularly desirous to reclaim lost elements of the British Empire, or to further extend it, but rather to utilise all means available (including violence) to maintain its current condition. On this score, the BUF differentiated itself from the expansionist goals of the Nazis and Italian fascists.

The confused outlook of the party is hardly surprising given the history of its leader, Oswald Mosley. Mosley was a complicated figure: intelligent, politically fickle, and a man who had “many Jewish friends” in the 1920s, but, by the mid-1930s, was composing lengthy antisemitic diatribes. He favoured the government control of economic markets, a throwback to his days in the pro-Keynesian Labour Party. By the time he founded the BUF, he hated traditional parliamentary politics, describing Stanley Baldwin’s moderate Conservative government as a “legislation of old women”. Mosley, however, was first and foremost an imperialist with deep concerns about the decline of the British Empire– or at least, the decline of the empire-building spirit.

This was not the only policy on which the BUF and continental fascism differed. In the meeting that pre-empted the creation of the BUF, the committee decided “not to attack Jews as such”, or at least “not to get itself entangled in so unnecessary a side issue as anti-Semitism in England”. Mosley had argued in 1932 and 1933 that Jews should not be persecuted on the grounds that they were “born Jews”. In the process, he rejected the biological basis for antisemitism espoused by the Nazis. Furthermore, in an early front-page article in the BUF newspaper, The Blackshirt, it was stated that “Jew-baiting in every shape and form was forbidden by order in the British Union of Fascists”.

Many prominent members of the BUF had a childlike fascination with the mythology of the British Empire. Rudyard Kipling (“imperial hero”

By denying that they were an antisemitic party, the BUF could maintain a degree of credibility with the press. There were strong racist and antisemitic undertones to the party’s core ideology, the BUF leadership went to some lengths to keep the


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party had always been antisemitic, albeit not always so conspicuously. Only a year after the founding of the BUF, The Blackshirt ran an article entitled “Shall Jews drag Britain to war?” in a poorly concealed attempt to blame Jewish people for Nazi crimes. This headline is indicative of how anti-war sentiment and antisemitism were intertwined in BUF rhetoric. The anti-war position taken by the BUF may seem unexpected; after all, the party regularly capitalised on pat riotism and nationalism, and Image: The British Union of Fascists (BUF) formed by Oswald Mosley. (London, England: Bridgeman Art Library). thought mediation and appeasement were weak, effeminate tools on the international stage. It also antisemitism implicit. This may have been a serves as a contrast to the war-hungry Nazis conscious attempt to differentiate the party from and Italian Fascists. Yet, opposition to war with the Nazis, whose violent actions were being Germany was essential to Mosley’s belief in the reported by the international press in increasingly Fascist World Peace, whereby the four pillars of shocked tones. While decrying antisemitic European fascism (Italy, Germany, France and violence, the BUF was able to garner significant Britain) would engage in international cooperation support from middle-class England, largely via to bring an end to war between fascist nations. the Daily Mail. It also allowed the party to claim the This ideological stance was a money-earner for moral high ground when members were insulted the BUF, which received significant funding from or attacked by Jewish people. For instance, when the Italian and German governments. By funding two Jewish men were jailed for kicking a fascist the BUF, Italy and Germany sought to buy in Leicester Square, the Blackshirt asserted that political influence in Britain; and they appear to “we shall know that any Jew attacking a member have succeeded. As well as remaining resolutely of the British Union of Fascists does so, not as a opposed to war with Germany, it is clear that the Jew, but as a Red”. divisive, prejudiced, and violent tactics utilised by the Nazis were increasingly embraced by the This disguise was difficult to maintain however, BUF. By 1936, the party had devised a policy of and soon the party’s submerged antisemitism active antisemitism. rose to the surface. At a rally in Manchester in 1934, Mosley embarked on an antisemitic tirade In the end, it was Mosley’s ‘international fascism’ after his opponents attempted to drown out his that spelt the downfall for the BUF. The BUF speech by singing ‘The Red Flag’, referring to had represented a ‘different kind of fascism’ in his hecklers as “sweepings of the continental 1932: the party was introspective, with detailed ghettos, hired by Jewish financiers”. The economic policies. By the mid-1930s, they had party also stirred a radical and violent form of merged into a support group for European fascism, antisemitism that was emerging in the East End. complete with Nazi Jackboots and Italian fascist The 1934 Olympia Rally quickly descended into uniform. With Germany increasingly viewed as bloodshed and disorder, and thereafter the press a clear enemy to British interests, this look was strongly associated the BUF with thuggery, fast falling out of favour with the public. After the violence, and intolerance. outbreak of World War II, the British government examined BUF funding with a critical eye for The BUF’s relationship with the Daily Mail came treachery, and, as a result, forced the party to to an end in 1934, when Lord Rothermere, a disband. staunch admirer of Hitler, told Mosley that he could “never support any movement with an antiSemitic bias”. Shortly after, BUF membership began to decline: the increasingly violent tendencies of the party had lost them significant support from ‘middle-England’. In reality, the

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic

Post-Pandemic England: ‘Golden Age’ or ‘Grey Age’ for Women in the Late Medieval Period By Sophie Whitehead When we attempt to create the dreaded ‘new normal’, it is important to look back to pandemics of the past to see how we can strive to create a more harmonious, egalitarian society in the wake of pandemic and tragedy. A pandemic, much like a war, calls for a country to be rebuilt - and this was no different for the Black Death of 1348. The number of deaths is disputed, however, the rates in England suggest deaths affecting as many as 45 per cent of the population. This drop in the number of citizens would, unsurprisingly, result in a long recovery time. Indeed, the records from the 1377 poll tax reveal that the population of England was just over half of the pre-pandemic levels. This population deficit was societally problematic, most notably through its role in the great labour deficit as casualties of the Black Death were evenly spread across the generations. Historians including E. Thorold Rogers argue that this labour deficit would lead to the 150 years after the Black Death serving as a Golden Age for female labour, noting that women’s’ wages doubled in the post-Black Death society. It is reasserted by pioneering historian J. Bennet’s observation that ‘there ha[d] been much change in women’s lives,’ however it is contested whether there was any transformation of ‘women’s status in relation to men’. More recent interpretations like Bennet’s, have argued that the concept of a Golden Age for women is more of an unsubstantiated illusion than a reality - with historian S. Bardsley stating that, ‘English women experienced the post-plague period as “more grey than gold”’. So, to what extent is it fair to see the post-pandemic society as one striving towards equality, and what can we learn from the social changes that occurred? In order to assess whether this equality is illusion or reality, it is necessary to first understand that the female experience of social mobility varied upon their social status within the patriarchal framework of

the 14th and 15th centuries. It is unsurprising that the agency and power felt by women depended upon their socio-economic position. However, the group possessing the most agency within these structures is contested. Some historians have argued that the improvement in the position of women is felt most strongly within the rural working classes. In the case of the reapers and workers employed for ‘Autumn Work’ in the East Riding of Yorkshire in the years 1363 to 1364, female harvesters earnt on average 98 per cent of their male counterparts’ wages: a level of wage inequality that is negligible in the grand scheme of things. Similarly, female reapers and binders in 1380 Michinhampton in


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic Glostershire were earning 4d a day, which was the same rate as their male counterparts. One argument for this perceived equality between men and women is that there were other factors than sex that would come to effect wage disparities, notably age and disabilities. This is true in the 1331-2 pre-Black Death case of Ebury Manor, in which the male workers earned half of the wage of female workers. However, as Bardsley explains, where women were earning the same, if not more than, men:


eval London, about a third of them related to women. However, this increased freedom and professional mobility mainly applied to widows. As of 1465, a widow of a citizen from London would be made a citizen in her own rights, so long as she never remarried. The same disparity between married women and widows is further evident within craftworks. Notable examples of this principle are Alice Holford who took on her husband’s profession of bailiff upon his death in 1433 and Ellen Laingsworth, who, after her husband’s death in 1488, trained three female ap“They were overlapping with male laborers at the prentices of her own. Historian C. Barron argues bottom end of the wage scale who was probably that ‘the Golden Age was golden only briefly and boys’ old men or men with disabilities.” was most apparent in the economic capital, London.’ However, arguably the Golden Age was This perceived equality was more, ‘confined by further constrained; it was golden for women patriarchal structures than it was changed by who were no longer ‘confined by the patriarchal demographic structures’. Women still worked structure,’ in this case of marriage. within majority female dominated, lower payed spheres. Confined within these structures, they Much like the metropolitan craftswomen, womwere unable to experience the same level of en within the nobility were also often ‘confined equality and agency that historians have previ- within patriarchal structures,’ however, unlike ously emphasised. craftswomen and rural women, they could set their own precedents and define their own rules An undisputed outcome of the Black Death is much more easily than those who were at the the rise of urbanisation and the subsequent in- mercy of legislation, landowners and in some creased value placed upon craftsmen and wom- cases, husbands. Noblewomen were able to not en’s work. Nowhere are these outcomes better only have agency within political structures but exemplified than in London and York where a also dismantle them. Lady Margaret Beaufort new social status began to emerge - the met- (LMB) passed her own act of Parliament to make ropolitan workers. Their class position in some herself the only woman able to hold property in cases is so distinct from that of rural workers that her own right whilst still married and acting as a their experience must be assessed separately. In justice. Although women of the period such as her seminal text on medieval women, historian E. Cecile of York did experience similar levels of Ennen argues that urbanisation tended to benefit power and social gravitas, with claimants writing women. Whilst her work focuses upon women to her for pardoning, few women would be able in Germany, the same can be said for women to access the same levels of power and prestige in England too. Arguably the most famous lay as LMB. Bennet argues that the periodisation of woman of medieval England is not a real person male history and female history are distinct, and but instead a fictional character: Chaucer’s The indeed, it is possible that the periodisation of noWife of Bath. The wife, like other women in the ble women’s history should once again fall into post-plague period, reaped the reward of a more a different category. Noblewomen history was monied, more consumerist society, with the wife more affected by individuals’ ambitions, as seen herself employed as a hat maker. Did real wom- through LMB and international politics, than en access the same level of financial and profes- a ‘demographic crisis’. Whilst it is true that the sional freedom as the wife? In short – yes. post-plague England was a Golden Age for noble women, the periodisation does not apply to From 1350 to 1400 the number of female ap- them in the same way as lay women, their Goldprenticeships soared and of the surviving 30 en period does not begin with the Black Death, records of female apprenticeships from medi- or for that matter end in 1500, it was instead a

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic constant.

is even more poignant in the present day where we look increasingly to the past for comfort. UnWhilst some women did experience greater lev- fortunately, the conclusion to this essay will not els of equality during the post-pandemic period, be able to provide that comfort: the patriarchal they were for the most part, in a minority and the system did not transform in the late medieval post-pandemic period was one of continued prej- period. However, the study of women’s labour udice rather than new possibilities. In contempo- after the Black Death does demonstrate that if rary society, we are constantly seeking signs that the desire for a more egalitarian society existed tomorrow will be better; that there will be more amongst the ruling elites, the Black Death and racial and gender equality; that there will be less the labour deficit would have facilitated mass soinequality in wages and that this war on the vi- cietal transformation. What this study teaches us rus will unify us as a nation and as a world. With is that there is a way for pandemics to lead to an this sense of hopefulness for the future, it would end to prejudice if the people with power want be fruitful to observe pandemics of the past as that prejudice to end. having similar trajectories. However, this is not the case. Bennet warns historians that ‘our preference for history as transformation might limit our ways of seeing past lives,’ and this warning


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic


The Self-Slaying Epidemic: Historical Mental Illness and the Case for Psychohistory By Jess Womack ‘Make sure you look after your mental health’ is a phrase we hear all too regularly in 2020. Demand for services provided by charities such as Young Minds has soared due to isolation and new anxieties about the future, while a study published by The Lancet Psychiatry journal in November suggests that one in five COVID-19 survivors will develop a mental illness. Meanwhile, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought increased attention to both the everyday and intergenerational trauma experienced by members of BME communities. Whether in lockdown or in taking part in protests, we have been encouraged to look after ourselves, seek help when needed, and develop mechanisms to deal with the psychological stress of mass change to our lives.

and worthy of historical study. Eric Dean, for example, writes that they are perceived as ‘alone in history in allegedly being under-appreciated, troubled, rejected, and blamed for war’.

The last decade has seen increased attention to the psychological effects of the American Civil War from historians including Eric Dean, David Silkenat, and Reid Mitchell. Silkenat in particular highlights the ‘self-slaying epidemic’; a perceived spike in suicide rates in post-war South Carolina in the context of rapid social transformation. Although it is hard to determine exact numbers, there was certainly an increase in the practice of newspapers reporting death by suicide, and the victims appear to predominantly be white men. There are several possible explanations for this, the most obvious being the trauWhen historians of the future come to study this matic experiences of the war. An estimated 97 period, they will have to develop ways to account per cent of white men of military age served in for new psychological trends in order to gain any some capacity during the conflict often described understanding of what really happened. The as the ‘first modern war in history’. Others have same could be said for any period or event, and argued for a process known as the ‘contagious this is something that has gone largely unac- suicide phenomenon’, in which a personal concounted for in historical practice. Historians must nection to victims or even hearing about suicides learn how to examine mental as well as physical remotely encourages others to take their lives. health of populations across history, embrace a Oral history traditions suggest that this was cermore scientific understanding of social trends, tainly a perception at the time, with one North and lean into the under-developed field of psy- Carolinian in the 1890s stating that ‘Suicides chohistory. never come singularly. One is always followed by another’. The increased reporting on suicide Unsurprisingly, military history is the most devel- cases in local papers thus potentially contributed oped area in this field. This is partly because the to the ‘self-slaying epidemic’ as well as providing effects of war were so central in the development evidence for it. of scientific understanding about mental health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was officially It is also interesting that increased suicides were recognised by the American Psychiatric Associ- largely coded as a white phenomenon in this time. ation in the 1970s, in a large part due to the leg- It is possible to dismiss this as deaths being unacy of the Vietnam War. However, the failure of der-reported in African American newspapers or history to engage with matters of mental health dismissed by the white population. It is certainly has resulted in a tendency since the 1970s to true that black veterans suffered similar trauma view the Vietnam veteran as uniquely affected to their white counterparts. However, Silkenat’s

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Academic study of African American sources reveals significantly few references to suicide, suggesting that ‘many African Americans believed that suicide primarily affected whites and was rare in their community’. Instead, we can look to the context of the post-war South. There was genuine hope for economic and political advancement among African Americans in the Reconstruction period. Violence and significant inequalities still remained, of course, but Jim Crowe legislation was not yet established, and thousands born into slavery were experiencing freedom for the first time. Additionally, community and kinship networks among black populations were far more significant than among whites. For all the horrors of separation under slavery, or perhaps because of them, social ties were viewed as highly important and were openly celebrated. These ties were also strengthened by community organisations and networks for mutual aid, education, and religious celebration. Of course, these are only suggestions, and greater attention to psychohistory is needed in this, and all other areas,

to better understand people and communities of the past. There is an unsurprising argument that modern psychology is fundamentally unsuited to studying the past. Many facets of mental illness are specifically tied to society and context, and contemporary scientific models are formed for their own societies. For example, the experience of those living with psychosis was altered greatly by technological advancements like radio and television. As such, there is a danger of overanalysing historical mental illness through a contemporary lens, and misrepresenting history as a result. However, while this deserves acknowledgement and careful attention, I argue that looking at mental health and psychological trends within different contexts will enhance both our understanding of that period, and of the ways in which people respond to different situations. 2020 has made us all deeply aware that we are living through history. And perhaps, as we try to come to terms with the changes to our lives, we can learn from that history. It is, ultimately, our relationships with other people that will see us through this.


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature


How Unique Was the 2020 US Presidential Election?: Prejudice, Pandemics and US Politics By Lucy Cowie The 2020 Presidential race was every bit as divisive and corrosive to American politics as was expected, but two issues were undoubtedly at the top of everyone’s mind: persistent prejudice and the Coronavirus pandemic. During the summer, these two issues peaked in influence, and tipped the election in Biden’s favour. The killing of an unarmed black man in the summer, George Floyd, sparked a series of protests across the United States and beyond. Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic has killed more Americans than the five major conflicts of the twentieth century; the First World War, and the wars that the US waged in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We know that history repeats itself, and these two issues are no exception. Racism is not an issue of the past, and its role in US election cycles continues to be incredibly important and worthy of analysis. The pandemic has reminded the modern world that despite technological advancement, globalisation and the wonders of modern medicine, we remain vulnerable to new strands of disease.

throughout US election history and has been aligned more so with the Republican party, as opposed to the Democrats, for the past 50 years. America is known as a melting pot, and an election held 50 years ago can demonstrate that it is necessary to cater beyond white Americans, as race was a defining feature of the resounding defeat of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election. Goldwater suffered one of the biggest losses in US history, in part due to his failure to denounce right-wing extremism, such as the John Birch Society. David Farber has written on race politics and Goldwater’s defeat, and he suggests that the candidate knew ‘the politics of racism’ and chose to align himself with racists. Democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson was following JKF’s legacy as the ‘civil rights president’, and building a coalition which included African Americans, particularly in the North. Of the six states Goldwater won in 1964, five were in the Deep South, and the other was his home state of Arizona, which he won by half a percentage point. Civil rights were a definThe Black Lives Matter move- ing feature of the 1964 camment that took hold of all our at- paign, and Goldwater’s appeal tention in the summer reminded to a purely white base was a us of the deep-rooted racism in huge failure. This reflects the American society. Racist rhet- beginning of strong alignment oric has been used as a tool between white southerners and

the Republican party, but also marks the beginning of African Americans having significant voting influence. On average across different surveys, in the 2020 election 90 per cent of black voters sided with Biden. Even though African American votes for Trump increased in the 2020 election compared to the 2016 election, Trump has never had much success with African American voters. This became a major issue for Trump when in the 2020 election they showed incredibly high turnout after debates over black voting suppression had been raging prior to election day. In a nation where the white voter majority is starting to get smaller, Trump’s racist rhetoric and failure to condemn white supremacy limited his electoral success. In 1964, white southerners were not enough to create a successful coalition to win the White House. In 2020, Trump tried to appeal to more minorities prior to election day, namely Socialist-fearing Latinos in Florida; but this was still not enough to prevent the overwhelming support Black and Latino voters gave to Biden. The elections of 1964 and 2020 demonstrate that populism and appealing to a racist base do not hold electoral success for Republicans, and the protest movements over the summer

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature were a strong reminder of where Trump stands.

the pandemic was resoundingly clear. More important than the 1918 midterms then perhaps, The other major theme of the 2020 election is was the 1920 presidential election. Harding, the of course, Coronavirus. During the 1918 flu Republican who would go on to win, called for a pandemic, Woodrow Wilson never publicly return to ‘normalcy’, amid social and political upspoke about it in the US, despite suffering from heaval. Wilson had failed in his promise to preit himself. Many comparisons have been made vent US involvement in World War I and failed in throughout the year comparing 2020’s pandem- his negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles. Hardic to the one of 1918. The pandemic did impact ing’s win in 1920 saw the biggest margin in popthe midterm election, with very low turnout rates, ular vote in presidential history, suggesting that mandatory mask wearing, and less in-person perhaps Trump’s loss was less surprising given campaigning. However, the 1918 pandemic historical context. pre-dates welfare, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and any form of Medicare Given the examples of how prejudice impacted or Medicaid. In 2020, we recognise the need for the 1964 election, and the pandemic in 1920, governmental involvement and regulation to limit the 2020 Presidential election seems somewhat the damaging impact of COVID-19. Whilst many less unique. Trump’s failure to denounce white Western countries have failed to prioritise col- supremacy, his incitement of violence, and prilective security over personal freedom, the US marily white base all cost him significantly as did is unique in how politicised preventative meas- Goldwater’s failure to denounce extremism and ures have become. Throughout his campaigning reliance on white southerners as his base. Equalin the summer, Trump refused to wear a mask; ly, Wilson’s refusal to comment on the Spanish held large, infectious rallies (like that in Tulsa); flu and massive failure at the polls in 1920 are and declared the US as ‘re-opened’ at the end of an example of how poor handling of a virus can April. Even when recovering from his own bout severely impact the polls. Trump’s failure to act of the virus, Trump downplayed its severity to the on Coronavirus, however, was much more signifAmerican public. Elections against an incumbent icant in 2020, as society has acknowledged the tend to be a referendum on their presidency, and need for big government. in 2020 the referendum on Trump’s handling of

Image: Postal ballot with fabric mask, 2020. Photography by Tiffany Tertipes. Source: Unsplash []


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature


Public History in the Age of COVID-19 By Mhairi Ferrier 2020 has been a significant and eventful year, which has seen the spread of Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions across the world, as well as a global fight against social injustice and systemic racism. This is a good time to discuss and reflect on what it has been like working in history-related roles during this Image: Interior of the National Museum of Scotland, image time. Thank you to Dr Sarah Laurenson, Rosie sourced from Google Arts and Culture. Klutz, Dr Sheonagh Martin, Craig Woollard, and Catherine MacPhee for reflecting on their work doorstep, others living in urban areas did not in 2020.   have the same access to outdoor spaces during lockdown. This item also brings an international For Dr Sarah Laurenson, Senior Curator of connection as the family also ran fundraising Modern and Contemporary History at the National concerts of traditional music online to raise money Museum of Scotland, COVID-19 became a for a local NHS appeal which was watched and priority collection project due to the significant enjoyed by people across the globe.   contemporary nature of the pandemic. Sarah explains that due to the interdisciplinary way that Helping people understand what contemporary the museum collects “there was an opportunity curating is all about has become easier in some to collect the material impact of COVID-19 in a ways, as Sarah notes that people “understand way that was different to how other organisations that this is a moment in history that they are living might go about it”. The museum has been through and that it should be documented.” That collecting across six themes: public health, idea of these COVID times being recognised by hospitals and treatment, politics, the economy, the general population as historically significant tourism, education and everyday life. Curators has also been something we have seen reflected have been utilising ‘post-it’ note collecting, by in the media throughout 2020.  identifying items and asking people to keep them until curators have a chance to review the Visitor heritage attractions have seen many material, and until restrictions on movement are changes, such as introducing a one-way system, eased in a way that enables the objects to be restrictions of visitor numbers as well as having collected.   less than half the staff and volunteers on shift at any one time. This has brought several changes As a result of restrictions across the country,  Sarah to both the National Trust for Scotland’s Georgian points out that “social media has played an House, as well as Kiplin Hall. The Georgian interesting role in collecting our objects”. Social House is a restored building designed by Robert media has allowed potential objects,  such Adam in Edinburgh’s New Town located on as a painted pebble decorated by a family in Charlotte Square, while Kiplin Hall and Gardens Shetland, to be identified. This is an object that is a Jacobean house dating back to the 1620s in tells a story about more than just its face value North Yorkshire. - the pebble highlights different experiences of lockdown across Scotland: while some felt lucky to have a beach on the

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature Rosie agrees that this has also been a challenge but concludes that “luckily our marketing and communications officer is very much on the ball, and she made sure all of the info was updated quickly and put onto our social media channels as well as making sure we had newspaper coverage.”  Craig  Woollard, an Archive Digitizer at Motorsport Images, has had to adapt to working at home when the bulk of his role involves Image: Interior of the Georgian House. Source: The National Trust for Scotland. scanning motorsport related photographs dating “Returning to Kiplin [Hall] was a very different back to the late 1800s. With the cancellation experience as the processes I had been used to of the Australian Grand Prix, the Formula One for four and a half years had changed and it felt Season opener, Motorsport Images pre-empted like starting a new job all over again,” says Rosie restrictions and began working at home two Klutz, Front of House Manager, who was placed weeks before the national lockdown started.   on furlough until June. Due to social distancing measures, the number of volunteers has had “We have been able to adapt quite nicely, to be reduced by half. “Without our dedicated we’ve got machines in the office that we can team of volunteers, we simply cannot open,” connect to remotely that we can use to sort out Rosie states. “Thankfully, with the help of staff, our servers or uploading to the website,” Craig we managed to open safely and still provide a explains. Projects, such as the 1970s Formula COVID-safe and enjoyable experience for our Two photographs Craig was digitizing, had to visitors.”   be placed on hold while working at home, while others could be continued, such as keywording Similarly,  at the Georgian House volunteer of pictures.   numbers have been reduced significantly. A typical day would see three sets of volunteers Motorsport Images was preparing for a move to working approximately two and a half hour a new building when the lockdown was imposed shifts, however, in these COVID times, to keep and as such many items in the archive were boxed the number of households to a minimum, there away. Prior to the second English lockdown, is only one volunteer shift per day, with shifts staff were able to work in the office for part of the lasting four and a half hours. Many volunteers week, Craig observes “the whole environment is are enjoying this new challenge. “After forty-five different, so it’s almost like starting a completely years of having those rotas and now having a different job in some ways”.   break from that, volunteers see that it’s not so bad,” says Dr Sheonagh Martin, The Georgian Recent events,  such as the Black Lives House’s Visitor Services Manager.   Matter  Movement,  have also offered the opportunity to reflect on the narratives being The everchanging guidelines have meant that presented to visitors at many heritage sites and visitor attractions need to be quick to react and museums. “There is a project which is called implement new operating guidelines. “We had ‘Facing Our Past’ and it is to do with looking at the five weeks to prepare for the opening and part of connection of Trust [National Trust for Scotland] that was asking how we could do that safely for properties with the Transatlantic Slave Trade staff, volunteers and visitors,” Sheonagh adds. and also now we are opening it out to the wider “We opened with a capacity of eight and within impact of the Empire,” says Sheonagh Martin. four days we had to reduce the capacity to six “I’m part of a research group for that and I think [due to changing government guidelines] every that’s very important.” half hour.” Catherine MacPhee, a trainee archivist at Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre, felt strongly about


Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature


Image: Exterior of Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre. Source: Highlife Highland,

the need to collect protest materials from local BLM protests on the Isle of Skye. Usually, archives do not actively collect; rather, they have items donated to them, but Catherine was determined this is a moment that would not be missed by the archive. “Before the pandemic hit in March, we had already been having discussions about the underrepresentation of groups in the archives, so these materials link in quite well with a number of projects,” Catherine says.   In  Portree, young people held a socially distanced protest in Sommerled Square, while more rurally located people had their own local acts of solidarity – materials and images have been collected from events across the island. Catherine observes that “this whole movement has opened the floodgates for this discussion, and I think it’s great.” She also tells me that we must “encourage people to be critical of their history”, an extremely important observation. Catherine hopes to keep the discussions going in the archive and across the island as she does not want the items just to be boxed away.  2020 has been a time for change, and we can definitely see that reflected in historyrelated fields. It has also allowed people to revisit or begin projects that normally there would not be time for. At the Georgian House,  Sheonagh  hopes to revisit the resources they produce for primary aged children, while also creating a secondary school programme. Craig has found the time to correct incorrect information on Motorsport Images’ online cataloguing, which has been caused by algorithms adding the wrong information, this is something that there is not usually time for. At Kiplin Hall, they have seen

the benefit of COVID changes in terms of how spreading out visitor areas – admissions, shop and  tea-room  – has been useful and is something they are looking to incorporate permanently. At the Skye and Lochalsh Archives Centre, the new prebooked appointments have led to a changing demographic of people visiting the archive, and this is something Catherine hopes will continue, and they can build on for the future, ensuring the archive represents all groups who live on the island. Collecting COVID related items continues for Sarah, as they are working to navigate this safely with more restrictions again being implemented and the varying restrictions across Scotland.

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Review


The Portrayal of the AIDS Pandemic and Homophobia in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ By Kat Jivkova A major twentieth century pandemic was undoubtedly the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), caused by the HIV virus. This disease was first identified in 1981 following the publication of an article concerning the causes of a rare lung infection – Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) – by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The article focused on the impacts of PCP on five gay men whose immune systems had deteriorated after their diagnosis: this came to be known as the first official reporting of AIDS. The events that ensued saw rigorous research surrounding this ‘mysterious fever’ and an urgency to suppress the pandemic, as demonstrated by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) mitigation strategy in the 1990s. All of this was coloured by a persistent homophobia. The 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club illustrates the gritty realities of the pandemic through the tale of real-life character Ron Woodroof (played by Mathew McConaughey) and his experiences after testing positive for HIV. Opening in 1985, the film shows Woodroof’s daily life before the diagnosis – his work as an electrician and part-time rodeo cowboy. He abandons both following a harrowing hospital visit in which he is told that he has only thirty days to live. The film circles the subject of fighting death, reinforced by the narrative theme of Woodroof’s interest in AIDS treatment. The protagonist begins by obtaining samples of azidothymidine (AZT), after learning that pharmaceutical companies in Texas have been trialling this possible cure. However, the medication soon takes a toll on him, partly due to his persistent alcohol abuse. This portrayal of AZT is accurate in various aspects. Despite passing stringent tests, the drug caused serious sideeffects, including nausea, chronic headaches, and muscle fatigue. Essentially, it was not a cure for patients, but rather a means of surviving for longer, arguably causing more problems than it solved. Nonetheless, it was fast-tracked for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to immense public pressure, resulting in human testing at a very early stage and controversial

studies with skewed results. In real life, Woodroof also publicly campaigned against the use of AZT, as the film suggests, stating “that stuff will eat you up”, further illustrating the controversy surrounding AIDS treatment at the time. It is of no surprise that Woodroof actively sought out and intensely researched different treatments to discover new ways of helping HIV/AIDS patients. In the film, he begins to smuggle non-FDA approved drugs from Mexico and later establishes a membership-based institution in which he supplies illegal drugs to people in the same position as him with the help of Rayon (played by Jared Leto), a trans woman and AIDS patient. Once again, the film coincides with the reality of Woodroof’s situation in the 1980s. He used elaborate disguises, usually dressing up as doctors or priests, to bring drugs across borders, even hiding this medication in a suitcase of dry ice when moving through customs in Japan. Furthermore, the film accurately recognises Woodroof’s involvement in several lawsuits with the FDA. For example, he sues the Food and Drug Administration over his right to supply members of his club with Peptide T for dementia, a symptom of AIDS. The film provides valuable insight into the difficulties involved in seeking reliable treatment for AIDS, and the FDA’s failure to invest more time into the approval of other drugs to treat the virus. One reason for the FDA’s ineffectiveness concerning AIDS is rooted in the homophobic attitudes which ran rife in the 1980s and were fuelled by the media’s depiction of the virus as a ‘gay plague’. The epidemic was assumed by some to have arisen in the U.S. after the Stonewall Riots in New York City, a revolution in 1969 which electrified an international gay rights movement. Widespread unprotected sex within densely populated cities such as New York resulted in a large proportion of young gay adults testing HIV positive at this time, informing these prejudicial attitudes. It was in another publication released by the CDC in 1981 that the ‘official’ target of AIDS transmission became ‘homosexuals’, an idea subsequently reinforced

48 Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Review face of adversity. The measures McConaughey personally employed for this representation surpassed expectations – he lost an extreme amount of weight in order to depict Woodroof’s physical frailty. The film also relies predominantly on research into the real-life person responsible for the buyers’ club. This was a meticulous process, which began over twenty years prior to the film’s release. It was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Bill Minutaglio, who first conducted research into buyers’ clubs for AIDS patients, catching the interest of screenwriter, Craig Borten. Ultimately, Borten was able to interview Woodroof just before his death with the hope of creating a film about his life. The film deals with topics that were taboo during the 1980s: it raises awareness of the AIDS pandemic and the hardships of the LGBT+ community, who were victims of a homophobic society at a time of acute suffering. However, one of the biggest flaws of the film is the lack of queer representation. By not hiring any queer actors to play important roles within the film, despite its focus being on the experiences of those within the LGBT+ community, Jean MarcVallee missed a brilliant opportunity to represent marginalised people in film. If a remake of this film is ever made, representation should be at the by a New York Times article that described AIDS forefront of the next director’s thoughts. as the ‘gay cancer’. The subject of homophobia is addressed throughout Dallas Buyers Club, Ultimately, Dallas Buyers Club portrays AIDS in a with Woodroof initially exhibiting homophobic unique way, demonising the FDA and its problematic attitudes. The film is exceptional in showcasing fast-tracking of an AIDS ‘cure’ in response to his character development: after it is revealed that growing pressures during the pandemic. Although Woodroof is HIV positive, his friends turn against the film is ambiguous in its presentation of the him, leaving Woodroof to experience first-hand AZT drug, this was achieved intentionally, to help the isolation that the gay community undeniably the viewer understand Woodroof’s perspective on felt at the time of the crisis. The film strays from FDA-approved medication, and his anger at its fact by introducing Rayon as his business partner side effects after trialling it. The film also shows in the running of the club and, although Rayon is the way that the media’s representation of AIDS a fictional character, it is assumed that director triggered specific societal attitudes which labelled Jean-Marc Vallee introduced her in order to more the virus a ‘gay disease’. Of course, studying the explicitly capture Woodroof’s personal growth. By flaws of Dallas Buyers Club is also essential as it the end of the film, the LGBT+ community is what will enable directors tackling AIDS-related topics Woodroof depends on the most. to improve the virus’ depiction in future films and avoid issues around queer representation. Dallas Buyers Club deserves praise for several reasons. Firstly, Mathew McConaughey’s exceptional performance as Ron Woodroof evokes an appreciation for the ambition Woodroof must have channelled in order to battle against his illness and distribute drugs to other sufferers, managing to push his morals forward even in the

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Review


Lovecraft Country: History Through Poetry By Rebeka Luzaityte Lovecraft Country is effortlessly evergreen. Based on a 2016 novel of the same name, the HBO series explores some of the supernatural horror elements developed by the infamous writer H.P. Lovecraft, with added themes of racial segregation in mid-twentieth century United States. The use of historical events as both a backdrop and an integral part of the narrative is unparalleled by any other TV series in recent times. Lovecraft Country employs many of the same filmmaking techniques as Hollywood blockbusters, including but not limited to time traveling, a love story, and a hero upon whom a whole community relies for survival. However, instead of providing blockbuster escapism, the programme’s use of poems such as Gil Scott-Heron Whitey’s ‘On The Moon’ and Sonia Sanchez’s ‘Catch Your Fire’ yields a poignant and nuanced socio-political critique regarding the way the African American community has been consistently marginalised in the US.

can be heard recited in the background of several scenes. In a series where a shot of a group of white men generates as much horror as a human morphing into a vampire-like beast, the fusing of horror and the supernatural with socio-political critique is what makes the show stand out from almost anything else of the last few years.

One of the historical events used in the series is the Tulsa massacre of 1921, during which white supremacists set the thriving Black neighbourhood of Greenwood, Oklahoma ablaze. An eyewitness account of the events was discovered in 2015, written by Buck Colbert Franklin. The manuscript details all the horrifying ways in which the so-called ‘Black Wall Street’ was destroyed by bombs raining from the planes above: ‘“Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?” I asked myself. “Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?”’ In this episode, titled ‘Rewind 1921’, Lovecraft Country incorpoThe show’s main character, Atticus (Tic) Free- rates Sonia Sanchez’s poem ‘Catch the Fire’ (the man, played by the incredibly talented Jonathan full title is ‘Catch the Fire (For Bill Cosby)’, but, Majors, is a young veteran who has come back naturally, the latter part is omitted these days). home from serving in the Korean War, 1950-1953. In a heart-wrenching scene during which a gang Upon his return, he discovers a letter from his of white people set a house on fire with a black missing father, Montrose, (Michael K. Williams) in- family still in it, Sonia Sanchez’s voice is heard viting him to discover his family legacy in Ardham, reciting: Massachusetts, a fictional town based on Salem, Massachusetts. It is a trap, but Tic doesn’t know “Where is your fire, the torch of life it as he, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) full of Nzingha and Nat Turner and Garvey and school friend Leti (Journee Smollett) set out and DuBois and Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin to find him. What follows are some of the most and Malcolm and Mandela” intricately delivered representations of the reality of black Americans in mid-twentieth century USA. Sanchez’s poem, written in 1994, is inspired by Specifically, Lovecraft Country relays the ways in the need for change in the socio-economic and which Jim Crow laws, which were introduced in political status of black Americans in the US. former Confederate states after the abolishing of slavery in 1865, and which then spread across the While the Lovecraft Country episode is set in the country as black people migrated in search of em- 1920s, the unerlying causes of a decades-long ployment and a better life, effectively upheld white fight for black liberation unifies the poem and the supremacy in the US. The social effects of this events on screen. It also services as a reminder are explored in the series by way of poetry, which of the brutal past of African Americans and the

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Review


Image: A scene from Lovecraft Country, courtesy of HBO. Source: New York Times, https://www.nytimes. com/2020/08/07/arts/television/living-while-black-in-lovecraft-country.html

While the Lovecraft Country episode is set in the 1920s, the underlying causes of a decadeslong fight for black liberation unifies the poem and the events on screen. It also serves as a reminder of the brutal past of African Americans and the ways in which their activism relies on the unification of the community, of maintaining and passing on ‘the fire’.

were quick in portraying the Moon landing as an achievement for all mankind, despite the black Americans who protested on the day of the launch. Thus, the distorted priorities of the government and its economic exploitation of black Americans were effectively overridden in favour of positive PR for the US. Not unlike Sonia Sanchez’s poem and its transparent socio-political commentary, the show’s use of Scott-Heron’s poem further Another way in which the series utilises a historical exemplifies the structurally racist confines of event and the poetic criticism that followed it is black people’s economic and social contributions seen in the episode ‘Whitey’s On The Moon’, to American society, which is then utilised for named after Gil Scott-Heron’s poem of 1970. In the advancement and mythologising of white the episode, Tic discovers his powerful magical Americans and their history. heritage, which the show’s white villain attempts to exploit in order to become immortal. When Tic Lovecraft Country expertly balances sociois forced to perform a ritual that may potentially economic and political critique of the fundamental kill him, Scott-Heron’s poem is the preliminary attitudes on which the US is built, while avoiding non-diegetic sound of the scene: diminishing the African American community to a monolith or their characters as mere motifs. “I can’t pay no doctor bill By way of using Scott-Heron’s and Sanchez’s But Whitey’s on the Moon poems, the series effectively demonstrates the Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still ways in which the marginalised African American While Whitey’s on the Moon” community is forced to fight prejudice in a society built on those very principles. Lovecraft Country Scott-Heron’s poem was inspired by NASA’s is a series that explores history through the very successful 1969 Moon landing; more specifically, people that made it. the amount of resources being funnelled into this mission, while Americans, particularly black Americans, were destitute. The US government

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature


Plague and Paganism: An Experimental Take on the Greek Gods. By Simone Witney Thucydides’ famous description of the outbreak of typhoid fever in 430 BCE contains details with which we are ourselves familiar: the lack of sufficient knowledge to enable physicians to respond adequately, the lack of any preparedness from the government, the despair of those suffering severe effects, the rapid nature of its spread. Yet, we hear little about the consequences on the economy and the institutions. Can we imagine experiencing a pandemic without the internet? As Covid has come upon us at a time when the web is intrinsic to our civilization, there has been a huge shift in the part it plays. The virus has shown us that so many of our ways of conducting our lives and business can be completely transformed. The high rent office in London, for example, with attendant lunches, cappuccinos, after work drinks, and international travel has simply dropped away while the environment begins to sing. The fall-out of Covid for our economy is extreme in its diversity, but while this is a time requiring imaginative solutions, it is also a time not to be naïve about the benefits of chaos for capitalism. This has been discussed in relation to great political changes, but there are comparisons to be made with the current situation (see bibliography for further reading). It is time for some Apollonian thinking.

so endemic that even scholars seem puzzled on how to take this preposterous pagan prescientific tangle of folksy tales seriously. However, the ancient Greeks – with a few exceptions – did take their rituals and myths seriously and, while this may not be a difficulty if religious practice is intrinsic to your life, the secular among us need to be reminded that ritual and myth were as integral to their lives as the internet is to ours. I suggest two ways of restoring our respect for the gods. One is to recognise that in a time before scientific humanism gave us such power over our fate, when we had a less aggrandised conception of ourselves in relation to the natural world, this entailed an honouring of this relationship as a given principle governing all aspects of life. Rituals, sacrifices and festivals were the vehicles of this honouring: whether you poured a glass of wine to Hermes – who took spirits to Hades – before bed to ensure waking in the morning, or to the nymph of a stream that watered your crops. You acknowledged your vulnerability to forces outside your control. In our present circumstances, and with the ethical shift from exploiting to sustaining the environment, this is not hard to embrace.

The second is that we try to inhabit the diachronic How is it constructive to think about Greek symbolism of these deities so that we may Mythology? reconnect with them. In other words: how might we think of them as beings active and powerful Over centuries of being redescribed for the in our own times? Indeed, why should we think culture of the day, the potency of the Greek gods about them particularly in relation to the current has drained away (this is not quite true, of course, pandemic? Let’s take Apollo for example, the nor do I wish to imply that artists should not be god who sent a plague on the Greeks at Troy. free to use the imagery that comes to hand). Their rich complexity is called ‘irrationality’, their Apollo: Back to Black or Sunny Afternoon? fluid relationships ‘dysfunctional’. A few survive as brand names: Hermes, the delivery company, He is often called the sun god, but this is due Athena, the poster company. The reduction is to his link to Helios, who is the sun god, and to

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics | Feature Egyptian Horus. They do all shine, however, and like the sun, Apollo can both heal and destroy. Due to his mastery of memory through poetry, he can illumine the future with a prophesy or withhold it just as the sun suppresses its own light. His is the kind of light which sends a ray to the end of a tunnel, or over a mountain. His vision is unerring, his mind functions in shafts, at high speed, with unwavering accuracy. Rarely seen without his bow, he operates like a Zen archer.


and water for growth and Apollo made the laurel sacred to him. So, Daphne became a symbol of integration and emergence. Apollo spent his youth travelling over Greece looking for places to found his sanctuaries. (Homeric Hymn 1 14045 and 2. 214-254). While Hermes is the god of journeys and transitions, Apollo is a god of the networks that make civilisation possible: a god of roads, of architecture, of infrastructure.

At the beginning of the Iliad, he sent a plague to the The quality of his thinking can be seen in the Greek army because their leader, Agamemnon, following story: the god Hermes, finding a had overstepped the boundary between the tortoise one day, immediately saw its potential. human and divine by taking captive the daughter He killed it and used it to invent the lyre. He of Apollo’s priest, placing self-interest above then stole some of Apollo’s sheep and used it the well-being of his army. What boundaries do to win Apollo’s forgiveness and having done so, we disrespect? Apollo can constellate for us a promptly lost interest. His is the mobile genius of combination of the ecstatic and the pragmatic, the moment, but Apollo’s genius lies in taking the which helps us appreciate why he was one of longer view. He knew exactly how to realise the the most feared and revered of the Olympians. potential of this new invention. He strode up to It also helps us turn our own attention to the way Olympus and, playing his lyre, lit up the deities in which imagination can function in both these with joy until they found themselves singing and modes to help us look beyond the present and dancing, for the first time, in a state of rapture envisage our own future. (Iliad 1.603). He had given them – and human beings via the Muses – the gift of memorialising experience through poetry and music, the gift of learning from the past and of bringing ecstasy to the present. He was, as all the gods were, energetic in his loving. Daphne was the daughter of a river god – but fire and water? It would not have lasted. Gaia, the personification of the Earth, turned her into a laurel tree whose nature it is to use sun

Images: Apollo and the Muses, oil on canvas pentyptych by Charles Meynier, Cleveland Museum of Art. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Issue 27 | Retrospect Journal | Prejudice and Pandemics


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