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