Vampire Pandemics: Past and Present

Written by guest blogger, Dr. Johnathan Roberts

Dr. Jonathan Roberts, opens a new window is a professor of History at Mount Saint Vincent University and an expert in the history of pandemics. For years, he’s taught the course “Plagues and Peoples” at MSVU. The Library has previously worked with Dr. Roberts as part of its University Classes for Everyone series.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Jonathan has shared his expertise through numerous media interviews. In addition to coronavirus, he’s offered public commentary on outbreaks of Ebola and influenza. He advocates for transparency and openness during pandemics, as a way to avoid the scapegoating and conspiracy theories that have been prevalent during past outbreaks.

A new podcast

Now, Jonathan is sharing his lessons on the history of pandemics with the world through a new podcast. Called “Vampire Pandemics – past and present,” the series delves into the causes and outcomes of global pandemics.

Pandemic diseases are like vampires, undead creatures that have become characters in human history.

Like vampires, pandemic diseases never die. They live with us, generation after generation, draining us of our vital essence, sometimes killing us off in a sudden frenzy.

Like vampires, they can’t live without us. Without sucking our blood, vampires are unable to sustain themselves. Without devouring our cells, pandemic diseases can’t live on.

And like vampires, we are reluctant to kill them. Rather than admit that we know who they are, and admit that we can kill them off with a stake to the heart, we let them charm us. We want to live with them, respect them, and sometimes, harbour their powers for nefarious purposes. Eradication, though it seems within reach, has been receding over the horizon for centuries.

Tune in

This podcast is an effort to daylight vampire pandemics and question our dysfunctional relationship with them. As each episode will show, in the past we had to manage our relationship with these illnesses, via religious rituals, through humoral medical theory, by producing herbal remedies, and by reading the stars. It is something of a miracle that we made it this far. But our knowledge of epidemic diseases is now immeasurably greater than the what past traditions offered. We even have some of these vampire pandemics on the epidemiological ropes.

Oddly, we are hesitant to deal the final blow. We feel a sense of kinship with these deadly creatures, even though they are invisible, and in the case of viruses, not even really alive. We regard them as part of the natural world, and offer them a reverence beings of the natural world.  But don’t be fooled. History shows that pandemics, like vampires, are sociopaths.  By their nature they are parasitic, and they have generated immeasurable discord and misery, sometimes to the point of extinguishing whole societies and cultures. These podcasts reveal the visceral agony of personal suffering that these diseases cause, bear witness to the social and cultural destruction that these diseases have wrought, and ask what we can do to stop them in the future.

Where to listen

The series will feature episodes to be added regularly.  Listeners can tune in on a variety of platforms – listen on Google Podcasts, opens a new windowApple Podcasts, opens a new windowSpotify, opens a new windowAnchor, opens a new window and more.