A concise but thorough and cohesive overview of pandemics from ancient times to 2020.
Each of the seven chapters in this work describes pandemics from different time periods and geographical areas. Opening with a chart showing the death tolls of 20 different pandemics, the introduction notes that the grim reality of corpses piling up in New York City in spring 2020 is just one commonality among worldwide deathly contagions. Opening with ancient plagues, the text clarifies the distinction between epidemic and pandemic and explains the link between agricultural societies and pandemics. Throughout, the text offers food for thought, including strong evidence that European plagues led to socio-economic upheaval, social restructuring, and religious crises while diseases brought to the Americas by Europeans created deadly and psychologically damaging burdens to Indigenous and enslaved African people. Other topics covered include the science behind vaccinations; parallels between people in 1918 and 2020 who rejected public health advice; and inhumane behaviors during pandemics. The final chapter, dealing with our current pandemic, discusses political factors and social inequalities relating to Covid-19 in the U.S., ending on a cautionary note. The pace of the writing is generally good, and the layout is excellent, with relevant photographs and plenty of helpful sidebars. Fascinating—and sometimes grisly—quotations from long-ago writers about ancient plagues and stories from modern survivors of the Spanish flu, polio, and HIV put a human face on the suffering.
Timely and worthwhile.(source notes, further reading, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)