Dora Vargha is Professor of History and Medical Humanities at the University of Exeter and will be joining Humboldt University’s Department of History in September 2021. She is a historian of medicine, science and technology, with expertise in the history of epidemics, the politics of health, and Cold War history. Her work focuses on questions of global health and biomedical research in the Cold War era, using the locality of Eastern Europe as a starting point.

Her current collaborative project, After the End of Disease critically addresses and dislocates geographies and narratives of disease and health. She is exploring ways to think about international and global public health outside of the framework of Geneva and US-based NGOs; and to question straightforward scripts of beginnings, crises and endings when it comes to disease. 

In the next five years, Dora will be leading two research groups on interconnected projects. “Connecting Three Worlds,” a Wellcome Collaborative Award based at the University of Exeter will be exploring socialist networks in global health history together with co-investigators Dr. Sarah Marks (Birkbeck) and Prof. Edna Suarez-Diaz (UNAM). At Humboldt, Dora will be leading the ERC Starting Grant research group “Socialist Medicine: an Alternative Global Health History.”


Health Beyond Medicine


Iron Curtain, Iron Lungs: Polio Epidemics in Cold War Hungary, 1952–63


Selected Publications

Vargha, Dora (2023). “Missing Pieces: Integrating the Socialist World in Global Health History.” History Compass 21 (7, Article e12779).

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Vargha, Dora (2021). “Technical Assistance and Socialist International Health: Hungary, the WHO and the Korean War.” History and Technology 36 (3–4): 400–417.

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Greene, Jeremy and Dora Vargha (2020). “‘Ends of Epidemics’ in COVID-19 and World Order: The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation.” In COVID-19 and World Order: The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation, ed. H. Brands and F. J…

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Vargha, Dora (2020). “Reconsidering the Dramaturgy.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 94 (4): 690–698.

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Past Events

Book Launch

CANCELLED: (Cows, Toads, and Other) Technologies of Reproduction: A Double Book Launch & Film Screening

Institute's Colloquium

Forensic Diplomacy and International Technical Cooperation: The Case of Mexico’s Extraordinary Mechanism for Forensic Identification

Institute's Colloquium

Canceled: Atomic Junction: Nuclear Power in Africa at the Crossroads

Institute's Colloquium

Debating “Scientific Warfare” in Republican China


Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

“Health and Socialism: Of Shortages and Solidarity”

International workshop held at Harnack Haus

Roundtable participant, "Global History. New Histories for Central and Eastern Europe?"

Conference of the ERC Nepostrans Project, Dedicated to the Memory of Emil Niederhauser and Istvan Deak. Budapest, Hungary

Roundtable Participant, "Clio in a Crisis: Reflections on the Roles and Responsibilities of the Historian in a Pandemic"

EAHMH, Oslo, Norway

"International Breakdown: The Who and Alternative Health Internationalism in the Early Cold War."

EAHMH, Oslo, Norway

"Connecting Three Worlds: Health & Socialism in the Cold War”

International conference held at Harnack Haus

Keynote Lecture: "Medical Humanities, Health Policy, and Avenues for Collaboration"

Medical Humanities Workshop, Oxford University, UK

"Medical Technologies as Solidarity: Eastern European Goods in an Alternative International Health."

CENTRAL Workshop: Commodities, Trade, and Materiality in the Global Cold War, organised by The Research Centre for the History of Transformations (RECET), University of Vienna, Austria

"Social and Socialist: Ideas of Health and Medicine across Cold War Europe. ‘A Europe of Health: Past and Present’"

University of Strasbourg, France

"Making Political and Medical Subjects: Treatment in the Hungarian Hospital in North Korea 1950-57."

European Society for Social Science History Conference, Göteborg, Sweden

Socialist medicine: rethinking the history of global health

Oxford University Seminar in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

The Acute and the Chronic: Temporalities of Medical Authority in an Epidemic

 ‘Gendered Knowledges in Times of Crisis’ Colloquium. Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

"Vaccination and Vacillation. The Cold War Politics of Polio Prevention in Hungary"

Paper to be presented at the colloquium of the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen

"The power of polio"

Pre-Doctoral Research Seminar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

"Where is the poster child? Communist ideology and disability in Hungary in times of polio"

Colloquium of the Institute and Museum of the History of Medicine, University of Zurich

From Plague to Swine Flu: Epidemics in Historical Context

Rutgers University Summer Session

"Body and mind institutionalized: raising children with polio in Hungary"

ISCHE 34-SHCY-DHA “Internationalization in Education (18th-20th centuries)” conference, Geneva, Switzerland

"One from the East, One from the West": Vaccine Evaluation and Cold War Politics in Hungary in the 1950s

10th Annual LSE-GWU-UCSB Cold War Graduate Conference, London, UK

"Tirelessly striving for the health of the little ones": polio and the paternal state in Cold War Hungary

Colloquium of the History Department at the University of Regensburg, Germany

"Half-dead bodies reborn: Communist Hungary and creating productive bodies in times of polio"

"Making (In)Appropriate Bodies" international conference, Vienna, Austria

"Drawing the Iron Curtain: Polio vaccination policies in Cold War Hungary 1957-1960"

Annual Meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), Philadelphia, USA

Nachrichten & Presse

Ankündigung des MPIWG Institutskolloquiums 2022–23: „Science Diplomacy and Science in Times of War“