03. Early Europe & Colonial Americas, 04. Later Europe & Americas, Art & Humanities, Teaching

Lesson Plan: Epidemics

Lesson Plan: Epidemics

This is one of the lesson plans I made this week for AP World History. This idea actually woke me up at night lol, teacher life, and I was really excited to create it. It’s perfect to connect history to our current situation, has the students practice with documents, and reviews epidemics we talked about! Win-win!

Read more: When my thesis on the plague seems super relevant


P.S. teachers are free to steal anything from here they would like to use in the classroom, I just ask that you give credit please 🙂

AP World History Standards

Unit 2: Networks of Exchange (c. 1200-1450)

Explain the environmental effects of the various networks of exchange in Afro-Eurasia from c. 1200 to c. 1450.

  • There was continued diffusion of crops and pathogens, with epidemic diseases, including the bubonic plague, along trade routes.

Unit 9: Globalization (c. 1900 – present)

Explain how environmental factors affected human populations over time.

  • Diseases, as well as medical and scientific developments, had significant effects on populations around the world.
  • Diseases associated with poverty persisted while other diseases emerged as new epidemics and threats to human populations, in some cases leading to social disruption. These outbreaks spurred technological and medical advances. Some diseases occurred at higher incidence merely because of increased longevity.
    • Diseases associated with poverty: Cholera
    • Emergent epidemic diseases: 1918 influenza pandemic


I want you to find THREE media postings (yes, memes count) of modern day reactions to the coronavirus pandemic that have the SAME point-of-view/reaction to THREE of the primary documents below (pick at least one document from each of the epidemics).

In your discussion post below, post the source line from the epidemic primary document, your coronavirus media source (pull a quote, video link, or image) – make sure to give me sourcing information (a link will do), THEN tell me how you connected the two primary documents. Your explanation should be no less than 4 sentences for each posting.

1348 Bubonic Plague

Source: Triumph of Death wall fresco, c. 1448, Palazzo Abatellis, Italy. This was painted during a subsequent outbreak of the Black Death.

IPPA Triumph of Death

Note: Death, personified as the skeleton on horseback, rides over victims of the plague which include a church bishop, rich, young, poor, and old alike; symbolizing that the plague indiscriminately killed all. Bubonic plague had over a 60% mortality rate.


Source: Giovanni Boccaccio, Introduction to the The Decameron, a story of seven men and three women who escape the plague by fleeing to a villa outside of Florence, written in 1353

Some thought that moderate living and the avoidance of all superfluity would preserve them from the epidemic. They formed small communities, living entirely separate from everybody else. They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures.

Others thought just the opposite. They thought the sure cure for the plague was to drink and be merry, to go about singing and amusing themselves, satisfying every appetite they could, laughing and jesting at what happened. They put their words into practice, spent day and night going from tavern to tavern, drinking immoderately, or went into other people’s houses, doing only those things which pleased them. …And with all this bestial behaviour, they avoided the sick as much as possible.


Source: Ordinance of Laborers issued by King Edward III of England, June 18 1349, in response to the decline in population which left workers in great demand

The king to the sheriff of Kent, greeting. Because a great part of the people, and especially of workmen and servants, late died of the [plague], many … will not serve unless they may receive excessive wages…

…butchers, fishmongers, hostelers, brewers, bakers, puters, and all other sellers of all manner of [food], shall be bound to sell the same [food] for a reasonable price, having respect to the price that such [food] be sold at in the places adjoining, so that the same sellers have moderate gains, and not excessive, reasonably to be required according to the distance of the place from whence the said [food] be carried; and if any sell such [food] in any other manner, and thereof be convict in the manner and form aforesaid, he shall pay the double of the same that he so received … nevertheless toward us they shall be grievously punished.


1854 Cholera Outbreaks

Source: Dr. John Snow, Cholera map of the areas surrounding the Broad Street pump, 1854


Note: Over 120 people died in 3 days from the 1854 cholera outbreak. This map is the first geographic and epidemiological analysis of a disease in which John Snow plotted the locations of the deaths and found they centered around the water pump in Broad Street. He suggested the pump be taken out of service and the epidemic ended, then helping him to formulate the theory that cholera is spread by dirty water.


Source: Public Health Act of 1875, United Kingdom, under the act provisions of sanitation, nuisances and public health were brought together.

Maintenance and making of sewers

Every local authority shall keep in repair all sewers belonging to them, and shall cause to be made such sewers as may be necessary for effectually draining their district for the purposes of this Act.

Sewage to be purified before being discharged into streams

Nothing in this Act shall authorise any local authority to make or use any sewer drain or outfall for the purpose of conveying sewage or filthy water into any natural stream or watercourse, or into any canal, pond or lake until such sewage or filthy water is freed from all excrementitious or other foul or noxious matter such as would affect or deteriorate the purity and quality of the water in such stream or watercourse or in such canal pond or lake.


Source: A public safety poster from the United States during one of their cholera outbreaks, 1849.

Note: Cholera is caused by contaminated drinking water & often targets urban, low-income neighborhoods in the decades post industrialization. The information was not known at the time of the advertisement.


1918 Influenza Pandemic

Source: Sanitary Commissioner’s report on the influenza epidemic, Madras, British India, 1918.

People, mostly in the interior, were averse in the beginning to resorting to a medical treatment under a superstitious belief that the epidemic was a visitation of the Hindu Goddess Amman and that no treatment by drugs should be attempted.


Source: Nurses demonstrating proper patient care & hospital hygiene at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance state in Washington, D.C., during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.


Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington D.C. during the influenza pandemic of 1918. (American National Red Cross) dhanson@abqjournal.com Thu Mar 19 14:05:50 -0600 2020 1584648347 FILENAME: 1696087.jpg

Source: American resident of British Samoa, account published in The Evening Post, a New Zealand newspaper, Wellington, 1919.

The Samoa Times admits that 8,000 of our small population in British Samoa have died, but in my own view this is probably too few. Many people insist that the deaths exceed 9,000. We had news of the approach of the influenza about a week before it arrived. The ship Talune came in with sickness raging on board. Within four days the infection was on the island of Savaii, and had spread all over. Samoans died on the roads, on the beaches, and near water holes, were they went to bathe their fevered bodies.

The disease,  however, was readily kept out of American Samoa, and no one here blames the American Governor John Poyer for keeping out the boat from British Samona by imposing five day’s isolation. Had British Samoa been similarly guarded we would have continued a safe and prosperous community.

*The documents about the 1918 influenza pandemic come from a previous AP World History released DBQ

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