For many students the idea of studying the history of public health provokes a very big yawn since it conjures up an image of investigating toilets, drains and political statutes through the ages. When the parameters of public health history were confined largely to sanitary reforms and the control of infectious diseases, then it was possible to argue that although public health was invented in the nineteenth century it had been preconfigured in technological developments stretching back through time, such as the Mosaic Code and Roman baths and aqueducts. From the late 1980s a new world-wide pandemic stimulated yet further directions in public health history. The experience of a contemporary epidemic in times when lethal infections had almost become a lost memory provoked powerful responses, not least among historians, semiological analysts and literary theorists.