May 2020

Now & Then highlights UBC History news/events for students, faculty, staff & alumni

Faculty News

History roundtable: What can we learn from pandemics in history?

“... it's a moment when all of history is kind of rising up and being revealed before us, and we're provoked to think about a million different questions.” - Robert Brain

Four UBC historians- Heidi Tworek, John Christopoulos, Tim Brook, and Robert Brain- gathered (virtually) for this roundtable discussing pandemics in history- how are they remembered? How do they impact history? What is the role of a historian in the pandemic?

Read their discussion here.

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UBC's historians on COVID-19

UBC's history department has been featured prominently in the media this month to give their historical perspectives on COVID-19. Check out their features below.

Financial Times: The world needs a new, depoliticised WHO 

Heidi Tworek's research on interwar communications was used extensively in this Financial Times article on the role of the WHO in the pandemic.

Financial Times- "AlphaVid: On trusting public health communications"

Heidi Tworek was later interviewed over video chat about the history of the WHO and other healthcare organizations, and their role in international politics. 

Salt Spring Forum: China and Pandemics: A historically-informed discussion

Timothy Brook discussed China's response to COVID-19 and the history of China's international relations and role in world politics with the Salt Spring Forum.

China and the Coronavirus: A Roundtable Assessment

Watch a webcast of the March 4th roundtable on the political, social, and cultural impacts of COVID-19 in China, featuring Tim Brook and Leo Shin.

Newsweek: Why Historians (Sort of) Love Pandemics

Timothy Brook authored this opinion piece on the interaction of genomic sequencing and pandemics, and how historians use the scientific evidence of disease.

Vox: The evolution of hand-washing, explained by a historian

Peter Ward was interviewed by Vox on perspectives on hygiene and hand-washing throughout history.

The Conversation: Coronavirus: Racism and the long-term impacts of emergency measures in Canada

Laura Madokoro discusses the interaction of government policy and racism in Canada's history in light of the recent racialization of the pandemic.

Brookings TechStream: Why the US needs a pandemic communications unit

Heidi Tworek lends her expertise to the issue of public communications during the pandemic, and the methods used (or not used) to circulate information, quell rumours, and communicate.

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Congratulations to Leslie Paris

Please join us in congratulating Leslie Paris on her appointment as one of four UBC Public Humanities Fellows for 2020-21

Leslie’s project, “‘Send it to ZOOM!’: A Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective” studies the impact of ZOOM!, a popular children’s television program, on American youth in the 1970s.  Check it out here. 



Student Focus

Studying history with Go Global in London, UK

"I felt like every step I took, I was walking through different historical time zones..."

Read about UBC History undergraduates Olivia Brocklehurst and Theresa Wong's experiences studying history at King's College in London through Go Global.

Alumni Spotlight

Q&A with History alumni Kristen Walters

Are science and history really that different? Alum Kristen Walters explains how her history major prepared her for her current role as a conservation biologist in some unexpected ways. 



Spring and Fall Courses

HIST 406: The Second World War

Instructor: David Borys

This course seeks to understand this momentous and terrible war through an examination of key historical events, significant military turning points and then diving into a variety of social, cultural and political consequences of the war.

HIST 358: State and Society in 20th Century Cuba

Instructor: Maria Munoz

The course will explore the long 20th century in Cuba. From the early struggles for independence to the 1959 Revolution and its aftermath, it traces the shaping of modern Cuba.


HIST 104H: Topics in World History- Killer Commodities

Instructor: Maria Munoz

This course explores the  impact of these goods and the intersections of land access, labor, markets, distribution networks, consumption, slavery, wars, and power in the shaping of the modern world.

HIST 399A: Theory and Practice of History

Instructor: David Morton

What is “history”, exactly, and how does one go about doing it? This course studies  different approaches to the craft - biography, material history, and oral history, and more.


Self-isolation hasn't prevented UBC's History Department and others from sharing their expertise with the world. Check out some upcoming virtual lectures and workshops on history below.

The Bubonic Plague and COVID-19 – Two Diseases in Contrast

How are COVID-19 and the Bubonic plague similar, and how are they different? Chris Friedrichs will be hosting a lecture, "The Bubonic Plague and COVID-19- Two Diseases in Contrast", on May 7th. 

Sign up here

Language Science Talks: Prime Ministers, media, and messaging: communicating about COVID-19

On May 15th, Heidi Tworek and others will be virtually discussing the role of leaders and media in the pandemic. Tworek will discuss her current project on communications and democracy during COVID-19.

Sign up here

Navigating PARES

On May 21st, UBC History will be hosting an upcoming digital workshop on navigating PARES, the Spanish Government's archives portal. Email Kirstie Flannery at to apply.


More information

Mapping Hong Kong—A History Workshop

The UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative will be hosting a virtual workshop on moments and perspectives on Hong Kong's history, from May 28th to 30th.


Sign up here