Disease and History

Disease and History
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By Frederick F cartwright in collaboration with Michael D Biddiss
Published by Dorset Press, NY, 1991
Hardback with dustwrapper, excellent reading copy

Arising from collaboration between a doctor and a historian, Disease and History offers the general reader a wide-ranging and most accessible account of some of the ways in which disease has left its often dramatic mark on the past.

It reviews, for example, the impact made by bubonic plague and other infections upon the ancient and medieval worlds; the likely role of syphilis in the careers of Henry VIII and Ivan the Terrible; the significance of smallpox for the conquest of Mexico; and the contribution of typhus to Napoleon’s downfall and of haemophilia to the collapse of Tsarist rule in Russia. Other topics surveyed include the influence of tropical diseases in the history of the colonization of Africa, and the global death-toll taken by the so-called ‘Spanish’ influenza of 1918-9.

The authors show how successive eras have registered some progress against pestilence, even while also experiencing confrontation with new and often unforeseen threats. Thus the final section of the book highlights how this field of history serves to illuminate many of the current problems now facing a world where disease – especially when combined with war, famine, and ecological recklessness – presents an ongoing challenge to human survival.