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

British History P&S History Colour eBooks

By Paul Chrystal
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 10.3 MB (.epub)
Illustrations: 40 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399005432
eBook Released: 24th June 2021


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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’.

This book is a detailed and factual account of the major health pandemics, plagues and epidemics in the history of mankind, told in chronological order.

The author did an amazing research job, as you can tell by the references interspersed throughout the text, giving us a very informative read.

NetGalley, Susana Rocha

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Whilst it may not be the wisest thing to read during a pandemic, it certainly was an informative read. The author has gone back to ancient, really ancient, times to document the worst of the lot. It is not a light read although it could be dipped into in manageable bites, if desired. It is chock full of well documented information in a readable format.

It also shows how much humans have learned over the millennia and how little humans have learn. More to the point, it often takes humans a very long time to figure things out, if indeed they do. Many of the same maladies pop up again and again while heads were scratched at the time and lesson learned forgotten quickly. It does prove, however, sometimes when one bright light figures out a crucial point, things can improve greatly.

Thanks to improved hygiene, cleaner water supplies, and medical care some horrible illnesses have been eliminated, or prevented. Vaccines have made an enormous difference in the quality of life for those who have benefitted from them. However, our current situation, highlights one of the biggest barriers to the eradication of many diseases- human nature. There will always be those who refuse to follow. They either forget or do not believe or learn from previous lessons.

Reading about the long COVID or the lingering effects of COVID on those who have had it but survived makes me realize how little some people have learned.. As the child of a parent who had polio, I can attest to the long lasting issues the victim must bear. We can only hope that the dormant remnants of COVID are not as life altering as post-polio syndrome.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow! This was comprehensive, detailed and factual of the major pandemics, plagues and epidemics since the Neandrathals. Yes, this book goes that far back to B.C. time. The amount of research that went into this book was off the scale, but I appreciated a glimpse into each disaster. Obviously, there was a lot of discussion on the novel vius, Covid-19, and I liked all the different tidbits, observations and speculation that was mentioned.

I do agree there needs to be some organization/people globally that has a task-force for pandemics/epidemics/plagues and the issues financially. The book said, "why would anyone donate a lot of money on something that is uncertain, when you can put it towards cancer patients/researching." (paraphrased). This book said also, "Once the morbidity/mortality for Covid-19 gets to a normal, unfortunately, there will most likely be another pandemic that follows shortly. It will happen." (paraphrased).

I think every scientist and government official globally needs to read this and realize events like this will not go away. Just because there are multiple vaccines for Covid-19, there is a global population who will never receive it because of location/finance or because they will not (anti-vaxers). This population is part of the issue why there may be another pandemic that follows quickly behind in the aftermath of coronavirus aka the variants or something worse.

Highly recommended read. It was not easy reading but fascinating and necessary AF.

NetGalley, Lisa Konet

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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