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The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics (Hardback)

British History P&S History Colour Books

By Paul Chrystal
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 416
Illustrations: 40 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399005425
Published: 30th June 2021


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RRP £25.00

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This revelatory book charts and explains the impact and consequences of successive pandemics, plagues and epidemics on the course of world history – all through the lens of today’s ongoing global experience of COVID 19. Ranging from prehistory to the present day, it first defines what constitutes a pandemic or epidemic then looks at 20 guilty diseases: including cholera, influenza, bubonic plague, leprosy, measles, smallpox, malaria, AIDS, MERS, SARS, Zika, Ebola and, of course, Covid-19. Some less well-known, but equally significant and deadly contagions such as Legionnaires’ Disease, psittacosis, polio, the Sweat, and dancing plague, are also covered.

The book is ordered chronologically. Each chapter features an explanation and description of epidemiology, sources and vectors, morbidity, mortality, governmental response and reaction, societal response and impact as well as psychological issues where known - and the political, legal and scientific consequences it had or has for each locus at a local and international level. In short – the book explains how each of the events both made and influenced subsequent history in its own way, particularly how each shaped future medical and scientific research and vaccine development programmes. It also examines myths about infectious diseases, the role of the media and social media. Perhaps most importantly, Paul Chrystal asks what lessons have been learnt. Will we be better prepared next time? Because, if one thing is sure, there is going to be a ‘next time’.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Paul Chrystal’s book takes us on an informative journey through the many pandemics, plagues and epidemics this world has seen in its history. In essence, it examines how previous contagions have shaped the world we live in today and discusses the lessons we need to learn if we are to be better prepared for the next “event”.

“Disease,” he says, “is a constant in human civilisation,” and has been “our lethal and unwelcome companion over the last 5000 years.” It is fair to say, then, that Covid-19 is simply another bad day at office. It isn’t the first pandemic this world has seen, and it certainly won’t be the last. Chrystal’s book makes that point loud and clear.

Packed full of detailed analysis and statistics, it is a must-read for students and experts alike, and reading it through the lens of our current battle with COVID-19 makes it all the more poignant.

NetGalley, Katherine Hartley

This was an interesting read on the different plagues and pandemics that have swept through the world. It started with the Neolithic Age and moved forward to present day, where we are currently dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

I loved the history and the information that was shared, and overall felt it was a great read! This is one that I am going to be recommending for students in history and social geography courses.

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill
 Paul Chrystal

About Paul Chrystal

Paul Chrystal studied classics at the University of Hull and then specialised in Latin love poetry for his MPhil at the University of Southampton. He is the author of numerous classics books, including The Romans in the North of England (2019) , From Republic to Empire (2019), Roman Military Disasters (2015) and Women at War in the Classical World (2020). He has contributed as a feature writer to the Daily Express, BBC History Magazine, Ad Familiares, Minerva and All About History, and is frequently on BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radio Manchester and BBC World Service. He is a reviewer for and contributor to Classics for All and a contributor to the Classics section of OUP’s Oxford Bibliographies Online; he is an editorial reviewer for Yale University Press Classics books. In 2020 he took over the History Editorship of the ‘Yorkshire Archaeological Journal’, the journal of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. In 2019, he was guest speaker for Vassar College New York’s London Programme in association with Goldsmith University.

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