Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present

Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present

by Frank M. Snowden


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300256390
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 05/01/2020
Series: The Open Yale Courses Series
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 13,052
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Frank M. Snowden is Andrew Downey Orrick Professor Emeritus of History and History of Medicine at Yale University. His previous books include The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900–1962 and Naples in the Time of Cholera, 1884–1911.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition ix

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xv

List of Abbreviations xvii

1 Introduction 1

2 Humoral Medicine: The Legacy of Hippocrates and Galen 9

3 Overview of the Three Plague Pandemics: 541 to ca. 1950 28

4 Plague as a Disease 40

5 Responses to Plague 58

6 Smallpox before Edward Jenner 83

7 The Historical Impact of Smallpox 97

8 War and Disease: Napoleon, Yellow Fever, and the Haitian Revolution 111

9 War and Disease: Napoleon, Dysentery, and Typhus in Russia, 1812 140

10 The Paris School of Medicine 168

11 The Sanitary Movement 184

12 The Germ Theory of Disease 204

13 Cholera 233

14 Tuberculosis in the Romantic Era of Consumption 269

15 Tuberculosis in the Unromantic Era of Contagion 292

16 The Third Plague Pandemic: Hong Kong and Bombay 332

17 Malaria and Sardinia: Uses and Abuses of History 357

18 Polio and the Problem of Eradication 385

19 HIV/AIDS: An Introduction and the Case of South Africa 408

20 HIV/AIDS: The Experience of the United States 429

21 Emerging and Reemerging Diseases 448

22 Dress Rehearsals for the Twenty-First Century: SARS and Ebola 466

Notes 507

Selected Bibliography 523

Index 551

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