Epidemic disease is as much a part of the human condition as earthquakes, droughts, floods, heat waves and other natural hazards that can result in disaster. This course will examine four cases of epidemic disease: (tentatively) cholera, tuberculosis, and AIDS. While we will definitely be asking the classic historical question "what happened and how?" we also will be considering how different epistemological frameworks, metaphorical strategies, and historiographical assumptions have shaped past historians' understandings of these events, while exploring alternative approaches. Students will write a research paper as a final project on an epidemic disease of their choice using an approach that helps explore some little-examined dimension of that disease. Choices will not be limited to diseases caused by microorganisms, but also can include cancer, diabetes, and other diseases that arguably have reached epidemic proportions, whether past or present.