Pandemics and education: A historical review

Andrew I. Spielman, Gulshan Sunavala-Dossabhoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Major pandemics have tremendous effects on society. They precipitated the early decline of the Western Roman Empire and helped spread Christianity. There are countless such examples of infectious diseases altering the course of history. The impact of epidemics on education however is less well documented. This present historical account of the past 800 years looks specifically at how some aspects of education were shaped from the early medieval epidemics such as leprosy and the Black Plague to the Spanish Flu and COVID-19. Leprosy changed religious education, and the Black Plague may have contributed to the rise of medical schools, hospitals, public health education, and led to the implementation of lazarettos and the quarantine. The smallpox epidemic helped usher in public health education for immunization, while the 1918 Spanish Flu precipitated the rise of education by correspondence, and recently COVID-19 has catapulted remote digital learning to the forefront of higher education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-746
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • epidemics
  • health education
  • history of medicine
  • pandemics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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