The report aims to produce a long-term perspective on the detection and identification of infectious diseases and inform policy at a national and international level.
The study by the University's Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) will reflect on the experience of dealing with human and animal disease problems to inform future research and management policies.
Professor Michael Worboys, who heads CHSTM, said the Office of Science and Technology (OST) commission was the first of its kind for British historians of science.
"OST wanted a research centre that could write a review of the experience of the management of infectious diseases in the 20th Century in both industrialised and third world countries.
"Our study will review the evolving risk of diseases, changing requirements for detection and identification, and input cutting-edge science."
Dr Abigail Woods, a science historian and qualified vet, will head the project, which is expected to last 3 months and will focus primarily on HIV/Aids, TB and foot and mouth disease.
She said: "One aspect we will be looking at is the globalisation of the disease environment and what technologies we should be investing in to tackle future disease outbreaks.
"We will also look at the difficulties of treating disease in the developing world where cultural differences mean alternative health policies are required."