Epidemics and Pandemics

Their Impacts on Human History

by J. N. Hays


Weaponized anthrax, mad cow disease, avian flu—all nominees for the next great epidemic. Throughout history, diseases have swept the globe, bringing down empires, wrecking economies, and changing the course of history.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Epidemics and Pandemics

December 2005


Pages 513
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Culture
  • Hardcover



    Add to Cart
  • eBook


    Call Your Preferred eBook Vendor for Pricing

  • International Pricing

    Hardcover: £76.00/82,00€/A$126.00

Balancing current and historical issues, this volume of essays covers the most significant worldwide epidemics from the Black Death to AIDS.

Great pandemics have resulted in significant death tolls and major social disruption. Other "virgin soil" epidemics have struck down large percentages of populations that had no previous contact with newly introduced microbes. Written by a specialist in the history of science and medicine, the essays in this volume discuss pandemics and epidemics affecting Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, covering diseases in ancient times to the present. Each entry combines biological and social information to form a picture of the significance of epidemics that have shaped world history.

The essays cover the areas of major pandemics, virgin soil epidemics, disruptive shocks, and epidemics of symbolic interest. Included are facts about what an epidemic was, where and when it occurred, how contemporaries reacted, and the unresolved historical issues remaining. This fascinating material is written at a level suitable for scholars and the general public.


  • Each of the 50 essays includes a bibliography for further reading on each subject and is cross-referenced to help the reader put the material into context
  • Glossary defines terms such as pandemic, germ theory, and virgin soil epidemic
  • Visuals such as an illustration of a 17th-century costume worn to ward off the plague and a photo of a panicked father carrying a polio-stricken daughter dramatize the effect of epidemics
  • Maps illustrate the spread of major pandemics, such as influenza in 1918
  • Sidebars feature source documents, such as an eyewitness account of the death of composer Frédéric Chopin or clergyman Cotton Mather's description of smallpox inoculation in 1721


  • Convenient, up-to-date, clearly written source of information on major historical epidemics as well as contemporary epidemics such as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis
  • Discussion of epidemics of symbolic and literary importance
  • Coverage of the human response to disease and the effects of disease on the direction of history
Author Info

J. N. Hays is professor emeritus of history at Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL. His published works include The Burdens of Disease: Epidemics and Human Response in Western History.

Other Titles of Interest

Mysteries in History cover imageThe Industrial Revolution cover imageThe Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life cover image
Encyclopedia of the Crusades cover imageAlcohol and Temperance in Modern History cover imageMen and Women of the Bible cover image

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips