Department of History

Ann G. Carmichael

  • Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of History
  • Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of the History and Philosophy of Science


  • B.A. at DePauw University, 1969
  • M.D. at Duke University, 1978
  • Ph.D. at Duke University, 1978

Contact Information


Ann G. Carmichael

In the clinics of Duke University Hospital I first became interested in the relationships between social perceptions of health and illness, and the biomedical, physical realities that infectious diseases present. Infections that should, theoretically, affect all humans in the same ways are often much more difficult to treat in poorer persons. Similarly, risk of illness and dying is not apportioned equally in populations facing epidemics. To explore such interests when I turned to historical records, I turned to the centuries of punishing recurrent plagues and pestilences in Europe. Plague was by definition an epidemic that did not respect persons or privileges—a disease, supposedly, that placed everyone suddenly at risk.

My 1986 book on Plague and the Poor in Renaissance Florence (Cambridge University Press) was my first use of a specific historical context to explore who died in earlier epidemics, and why understanding which persons died then matters to us now. All my other work, in numerous studies, reviews and encyclopedic summaries, ultimately relates in the history of infectious and epidemic diseases. I explore perceptions, realities, and larger patterns of illness and death over time, using documents which were generated for other purposes, by people who did not see the world as we do. In recent years I have been interested in how people remember and re-present their experiences surviving plagues and pestilences, and in the larger lessons that past epidemics provide for us in this century of great global and environmental changes.

The larger field of the history of medicine occupies my teaching and professional service. I have been a co-director of IU's Center for the History of Medicine for many years, and serve as webmaster for the American Association for the History of Medicine.

Research Interests

  • Historical epidemiology
  • Medicine

Courses Recently Taught

  • Medicine in War
  • Epidemics in History
  • The Black Death
  • Medicine and Human Experimentation
  • Drugs and Spices, 1400-1900