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A sweeping global history that looks beyond European urban centers to show how slavery, colonialism, and war propelled the development of modern medicine. Most stories of medical progress come with ready-made heroes. John Snow traced the origins of London's 1854 cholera outbreak to a water pump, leading to the birth of epidemiology. Florence Nightingale's contributions to the care of soldiers in the Crimean War revolutionized medical hygiene, transforming hospitals from crucibles of infection to sanctuaries of recuperation. Yet histories of individual innovators ignore many key sources of medical knowledge, especially when it comes to the science of infectious disease. Reexamining the foundations of modern medicine, Jim Downs shows that the study of infectious disease depended crucially on the unrecognized contributions of nonconsenting subjects--conscripted soldiers, enslaved people, and subjects of empire. Plantations, slave ships, and battlefields were the laboratories in which physicians came to understand the spread of disease. Military doctors learned about the importance of air quality by monitoring Africans confined to the bottom of slave ships. Statisticians charted cholera outbreaks by surveilling Muslims in British-dominated territories returning from their annual pilgrimage. The field hospitals of the Crimean War and the US Civil War were carefully observed experiments in disease transmission. The scientific knowledge derived from discarding and exploiting human life is now the basis of our ability to protect humanity from epidemics. Boldly argued and eye-opening, Maladies of Empire gives a full account of the true price of medical progress.
Why the news about the global decline of infectious diseases is not all good. Plagues and parasites have played a central role in world affairs, shaping the evolution of the modern state, the growth of cities, and the disparate fortunes of national economies. This book tells that story, but it is not about the resurgence of pestilence. It is the story of its decline. For the first time in recorded history, virus, bacteria, and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death or disability in any region of the world. People are living longer, and fewer mothers are giving birth to many children in the hopes that some might survive. And yet, the news is not all good. Recent reductions in infectious disease have not been accompanied by the same improvements in income, job opportunities, and governance that occurred with these changes in wealthier countries decades ago. There have also been unintended consequences. In this book, Thomas Bollyky explores the paradox in our fight against infectious disease: the world is getting healthier in ways that should make us worry. Bollyky interweaves a grand historical narrative about the rise and fall of plagues in human societies with contemporary case studies of the consequences. Bollyky visits Dhaka--one of the most densely populated places on the planet--to show how low-cost health tools helped enable the phenomenon of poor world megacities. He visits China and Kenya to illustrate how dramatic declines in plagues have affected national economies. BBollyky traces the role of infectious disease in the migrations from Ireland before the potato famine and to Europe from Syria and elsewhere today. Historic health achievements are remaking a world that is both worrisome and full of opportunities. Whether the peril or promise of that progress prevails, Bollyky explains, depends on what we do next. A Council on Foreign Relations Book
A "brilliant and sobering" (Paul Kennedy, Wall Street Journal) look at the history and human costs of pandemic outbreaks As seen on "60 Minutes" The World Economic Forum #1 book to read for context on the coronavirus outbreak This sweeping exploration of the impact of epidemic diseases looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, from the Black Death to today, and in a new preface addresses the global threat of COVID-19. In a clear and accessible style, Frank M. Snowden reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and public health, but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare. A multidisciplinary and comparative investigation of the medical and social history of the major epidemics, this volume touches on themes such as the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria. In addition to providing historical perspective on diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis, Snowden examines the fallout from recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and the question of the world's preparedness for the next generation of diseases.
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From the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the 14th century to the influenza pandemic following World War I and the novel strain of coronavirus that made "social distancing" the new normal, wide-scale disease outbreaks have played an important role throughout human history. In addition to the toll they take on human lives, epidemics have spurred medical innovations, toppled governments, crippled economies, and led to cultural revolutions. Epidemics and Pandemics: From Ancient Plagues to Modern-Day Threats provides readers with a holistic view of the terrifying--and fascinating--topic of epidemics and pandemics. In Volume 1, readers will discover what an epidemic is, how it emerges and spreads, what diseases are most likely to become epidemics, and how disease outbreaks are tracked, prevented, and combatted. They will learn about the impacts of such modern factors as global air travel and antibiotic resistance, as well as the roles played by public health agencies and the media. Volume 2 offers detailed case studies that explore the course and lasting significance of individual epidemics and pandemics throughout history.
Unlike other books on epidemics, which either focus on the science behind how microbes cause disease or tell first-person accounts of one particular disease, Epidemics: The Impact of Germs and Their Power over Humanity takes a holistic approach to explaining how these diseases have shaped who we are as a society. Each of the worst epidemic diseases is discussed from the perspective of how it has been a causative agent of change with respect to our history, religious traditions, social interactions, and technology. In looking at world history through the lens of epidemic diseases, readers will come to appreciate how much we owe to the oldest and smallest parasites. Adults and students interested in science and history--and especially anyone who appreciates a good story and has a healthy curiosity for the lesser-known facts of life--will find this book of interest. Health-care workers will also benefit greatly from this text, as will college students majoring in biology or a pre-health field.
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