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Pandemic (EN)

How does the coronavirus pandemic fit into the big picture?

The current COVID-19 crisis shows us that plagues are clearly not something from the past and infectious disease outbreaks form a global threat. How does the current coronavirus pandemic fit into the big picture? What can be gained by looking at it from a broad interdisciplinary perspective? And does such a broad interdisciplinary perspective on pandemics hold lessons for the future? This course tries to answer these questions by zooming out from the here and now, by looking at the pandemic through a global and big historical lens. While doing so, it brings together and connects insights from a wide variety of disciplines, from virology and evolutionary biology to geopolitics and world history.

The course will do all of this by providing you with videos that have been recorded by experts especially for this course. Each week it will bring together two experts: one that discusses our understanding of an aspect of the current coronavirus pandemic, and one that places that understanding in a broad historical perspective. Based on the videos, you will work in online groups on questions for these experts, which they will answers during a weekly live Q&A session.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Summarize what we know about the coronavirus pandemic on scales ranging from the cellular to the global level;
  • Summarize what we know about the history of viruses and their effects on scales ranging from the cellular to the global level;
  • Critically examine the evidence these ideas are based on;
  • Creatively connect ideas about the coronavirus, viruses in general and their effects across a number of spatial and temporal scales;
  • Reflect on how the current coronavirus pandemic fits into the big picture;
  • Reflect on what this means for the future.


Esther Quaedackers

Teaching format

Seminar, selfstudy, work independently on project/thesis, guidance/feedback moment


  • Questions document (30%)
  • Draft assignment (20%)
  • Final assignment (50%)

Course material

  • Syllabus:
    Online syllabus that includes a variety of videos and reading


See Datanose.


See website.


UvA-students can register themselves from 9 June (look for code 5512PAND6Y in SIS) until a week before the start of the course. If you have any trouble while registering please contact: Keuzeonderwijs-iis@uva.nl

Registration other interested parties

Pandemic (EN)
Vorm Kortlopend, kortlopend
Studielast EC,
Start September