Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
sociology masthead
Robert Crosnoe, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2010

SOC 308 • Conquest of Disease

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46210 MWF
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
BUR 116

Course Description

This course uses demographic and sociological perspectives to historically trace how human societies have undergone the epidemiological transition. Specifically, this course examines the ways by which human societies - via social order, urbanization, nutrition, knowledge, and medicine - have, over time, reduced the prevalence of human disease and mortality.

Spanish philosopher and essayist José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1956) once proclaimed, "The increase of population is the most revolutionary phenomenon of our times." While certainly debatable, the assertion rests on the fact that the demographic transition has shaped every facet of our social, economic, political, and physical worlds. Behind this incredible transition – from populations characterized by high mortality and high fertility to low mortality and low fertility – is the human conquest of disease and early death. Over time, humans have slowly accomplished what no other species of animal has: we have removed ourselves from the indiscriminate life-death cycle of the natural order. We have done so by creating societies, increasing our knowledge of the natural world, and developing technologies to preserve our health, reduce disease and disability, and lessen the risk of early mortality. This course will use demographic and sociological perspectives to examine this history. Special attention will be given to variations (by region, sub-population, culture, etc.) in how this process has unfolded.

Grading Policy

There are a total of 500 points in the class. Below is the course distribution by points:

Exam #1 100
Exam #2 100
Exam #3* 100
Final Exam 150
Homework #1 30
Homework #2 45
Journal 75

Total** 500

450 - 500 = A
400 - 449 = B
350 - 399 = C
300 - 349 = D
<299 = F
* One non-final exam will be dropped.
** Two extra credit assignments are available to increase your overall score.


Fogel, Robert William, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 2004

Course packet, including, but not limited to:

Population Reference Bureau, "Transitions in World Population," Population Bulletin, vol 59(1), 2004
Population Reference Bureau, "Attaining Global Health: Challenges and Opportunities", Population Bulletin, vol 55(1), 2000
Wilkinson, Richard G., "The Epidemiological Transition: From Material Scarcity to Social Disadvantage?", Daedalus, vol 123(4): 61-77, 1994,
Olshansky, S. Jay and A. Brian Ault, “The Fourth Stage of the Epidemiologic Transition: The Age of Delayed Degenerative Diseases,” The Millbank Quarterly, vol 64(3): 355-391, 1986


bottom border