Posted on 18 June 2019
Namrata and Sanjoy recount the story of ‘the pox’ in history, describing the famed work of eighteenth century country surgeon Edward Jenner, who demonstrated that immunity to smallpox could be produced by inoculating a human with material from a lesion on the udder of a cow, before moving onto the story of the worldwide smallpox eradication efforts in the second half of the twentieth century. They argue, however, that the official version of the global eradication campaign simplifies the complicated story of smallpox eradication especially in myriad national contexts where the campaign actually unfolded. Their current research seeks both to improve institutional memory of the eradication programme and de-centre the WHO focussed narratives of the global programme. Overall, the piece shows that the history and lessons of smallpox hence remain more relevant than ever before.
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Dr Namrata Ganneri is a Commonwealth Rutherford Fellow (2018-2020) at the Department of History, University of York. Sanjoy Bhattacharya is Professor in the History of Medicine at the University of York, Director of the History Department’s Centre for Global Health Histories, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, and the Head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories (based at the University of York). To find out more about his research please visit the Department of History staff pages.