Health, Disease & Population

Health, Disease & Population

Health, disease & population brings together researchers interrogating the scientific history of infectious diseases with those researching the public health policies & regulations through which infectious diseases have historically been managed. Its two major projects are ‘Rethinking Medico-Legal Borders: From international to internal histories’ and ‘A History of Viral Hepatitis: Science & Medicine in the 20th Century’.

Rethinking Medico-Legal Borders: From international to internal histories

The response to COVID-19 has starkly revealed the significance of internal movement and its regulation. Yet the focus of scholarship on medico-legal border control remains almost exclusively on international movement. This project addresses that major gap by researching the regulation of internal movement in past and present pandemic times, with a focus on plague, influenza, SARS and coronavirus in Australia, and in comparison with Hong Kong. Bringing law and history together, this project seeks to clarify how internal movement has been, and can best be, lawfully regulated.

The project is funded by an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative grant (SR200200683). Project members: Professor Alison Bashford (History), Professor Jane McAdam (Law), Chi Chi Huang, Tiarne Barratt, Regina Jefferies.

Image: ‘Arrival at Quarantine Camp, Wallangarra, 1919,’ [Brisbane]: John Oxley Library, SL Queensland, 2006).

A History of Viral Hepatitis: Science & Medicine in the 20th Century

A 20th-C image of blood samples, lined up in a rack.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made commonplace the viral diagnostics vocabulary of antibodies, antigens and variant sequences. ‘Rapid’ virological testing however, only became available for clinical use from the early 1970s, initially for hepatitis. This project therefore uses viral hepatitis to trace the development of the understanding of viruses and the transformation of viral diagnostics in the late twentieth century. It explores the contribution that blood collection for population genetics and blood banks made to this history, and demonstrates the power of both basic and applied research, and the different ways that viral disease came to be known before HIV/AIDS and concurrent with it.

This PhD project is led by Dr Michelle Bootcov and funded by an RTP Scholarship and a 2021 Dan David Prize Scholarship Award.

Image: ‘Blood Bank Testing’ Bernard Gotfryd photograph collection (Library of Congress), LC-GB05- 8119 [P&P].

Our People

Tiarne Barratt

Tiarne Barratt is a HDR candidate in the School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW. Her doctoral work investigates the role of history in COVID-19 new and traditional medias and the strategic function of history in pandemic responses. Her master’s research was a history of contraceptive sterilisation in Australia, looking at the voluntary uptake of tubal ligation and vasectomy procedures in the twentieth century. Other recent projects include research on Australia’s border control practices in the 1919 influenza pandemic.

Tiarne Barratt is a researcher on the ARC SRI project, “Rethinking Medico-Legal Borders: From international to internal histories” Contact:

Jane McAdam

Professor Jane McAdam AO is Scientia Professor of Law and Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW. Professor McAdam has published widely in international refugee law and forced migration, with a particular focus on climate change, disasters and displacement. She has special expertise on cross-border relocations, especially in the Pacific, and a keen interest in the global history of refugee and migration law. Her research has been supported by a number of Australian Research Council grants, including a prestigious Future Fellowship (2012–15). Professor McAdam is co-CI of the ARC SRI ‘Rethinking medico-legal borders: From international to internal histories.’

Alison Bashford

Professor Alison Bashford is Laureate Professor in History and Director of the Laureate Centre for History & Population. She also directs the New Earth Histories Research Program. Her work connects the history of science, global history, and environmental history into new assessments of the modern world, from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Michelle Bootcov

Dr Michelle Bootcov is a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities and Languages at UNSW. Her work examines the 20th century scientific and medical history of viral hepatitis.

Chi Chi Huang

Dr Chi Chi Huang is an environmental and medical humanities historian of the British Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her research interests lie in the intersection of transnational and imperial histories, with a focus on Southeast Asia and China. Her doctoral research on the production of British popular and visual cultures of Hong Kong explores the environment as commodity, the notion of an imperial ideal, and tropicality. Chi Chi’s next project takes the third plague pandemic in Australia as a starting point to explore the history of the Australian-Asian connection through lens of health. Chi Chi Huang is a postdoctoral researcher on the ARC SRI project, “Rethinking Medico-Legal Borders: From international to internal histories”



Pandemics and internal borders: is history repeating itself?

UNSW Media, 30 Nov 2020

What history can teach us about pandemic management

UNSW Media, 30 Sept 2021

UNSW historian named 2021 Dan David Prize Laureate

UNSW Media, 16 Feb 2021

Select Publications & Media

Colagiuri, Stephen and Michelle Bootcov [Eds.], Stephen, Roger Wilkinson, Catherine Storey, et al, ‘100 Years of Insulin in Australia’, Health and History, 25:1 (2023) 92-112, DOI: 10.1353/hah.2023.a904714

Jefferies, Regina, Tiarne Barratt, Chi Chi Huang & Alison Bashford, ‘Regulating Movement in Pandemic Times,’ Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Sept 2023),

Jefferies, Regina & McAdam, Jane, ‘Locked In: Australia’s COVID-19 Border Closures and the Right to Leave (December 12, 2022)’. Forthcoming (2022) 40 Australian Year Book of International Law, UNSW Law Research Paper No. 22-44, Available at SSRN:

Barratt, Tiarne & Alison Bashford, ‘Lines of Hygiene: Pandemic Border Control in Australia, 1919,’ Australian Historical Studies 53:2 (2022) 284-307

Jefferies, Regina, Jane McAdam & Sangeetha Pillai, ‘Can we still call Australia home? The right to return and the legality of Australia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions,’ Australian Journal of Human Rights, 27:2 (2021) 211-231, DOI: 10.1080/1323238X.2021.1996529

Jeffries, Regina, Border closures should not be Australia’s default response, The Inerpreter by the Lowy Institute, 30 Nov 2021,

Hicks, Liz, Jane McAdam & Regina Jefferies, ‘The federal government made it even harder for Australians overseas to come home. Is this legal?’ The New Daily, 9 August 2021:

McAdam, Jane & Jeffries, Regina, Why the latest travel caps looks like an arbitrary restriction on Australians’ right to come home, Conversation, 5 July 2021

Jeffries, Regina & McAdam, Jane, ‘Who’s being allowed to leave Australia during COVID? FOI data show it is murky and arbitrary,’ UNSW Newsroom, 2 July 2021–foi-data-sh

Bashford, Alison, ‘Beyond Quarantine Critique’, Somatosphere (2020)

Bashford, Alison, ‘Pandemics and Borders‘ Scrolls and Leaves Podcast, Season 1, Episode 1 Featuring Alison Bashford,

Bootcov, Michelle, ‘Bruce Small, the Mr Big of women’s cycling in interwar Australia’, Sporting Traditions, 37:2 (2020) 115-136

Bootcov, Michelle, ‘Australian female endurance cyclists of the 1930s and the commercialization of their athletic femininity’, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 36:15-16 (2020) 1433-1456, DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2020.1713107

Bootcov, Michelle, ‘Dr George On Lee (葉七秀): Not just a medical practitioner in colonial Australia’, Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, 8 (2019) 82-101,

Glisic, Iva, Samantha Owen, Parisa Shams, Kelly Bailey, Michelle Bootcov et al., ‘Editorial. The Female Frame: Biopolitics and Wellbeing in Australian and Global Perspective’, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, 27 (2021) 175-176.

Huang, Chi Chi and Alison Bashford, ‘Vaccine Requirements Predate the COVID-19 Pandemic by More than a Century,’ The Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute, 6 April 2022:

Henwood, Belinda, ‘Pandemics and Internal Borders: Is history repeating itself?’ UNSW Newsroom, 30 November 2020,

UNSW Media, ‘What History Can Teach Us About Pandemic Manadement,’ UNSW Newsroom, 30 September 2021:

Cover image: Kaines, Jack A. P., 1896-1975, ‘Quarantine Camp, Jubilee Oval’ [PRG 1638/2/99], State Library of South Australia.