Epidemics and War
The Impact of Disease on Major Conflicts in History
by Rebecca M. Seaman, Editor
April 2018, 340pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5224-4
$103, £80, 90€, A142
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5225-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The American Civil War was a deadly conflict—and not just from battle. Pneumonia, not usually classified as an epidemic disease, was the third highest killer of soldiers in the Civil War.

Through its coverage of 19 epidemics associated with a broad range of wars, and blending medical knowledge, demographics, geographic, and medical information with historical and military insights, this book reveals the complex relationship between epidemics and wars throughout history.

How did small pox have a tremendous effect on two distinct periods of war—one in which the disease devastated entire native armies and leadership, and the other in which technological advancements and the application of medical knowledge concerning the disease preserved an army and as a result changed the course of events? Epidemics and War: The Impact of Disease on Major Conflicts in History examines fascinating historical questions like this and dozens more, exploring a plethora of communicable diseases—viral, fungal, and/or bacterial in nature—that spread and impacted wars or were spread by some aspect of mass human conflict.

Written by historians, medical doctors, and people with military backgrounds, the book presents a variety of viewpoints and research approaches. Each chapter examines an epidemic in relation to a period of war, demonstrating how the two impacted each other and affected the populations involved directly and indirectly. Starting with three still unknown/unidentified epidemics (ranging from Classical Athens to the Battle of Bosworth in England), the book’s chapters explore a plethora of diseases that spread through wars or significantly impacted wars. The book also examines how long-ended wars can play a role in the spread of epidemics a generation later, as seen in the 21st-century mumps epidemic in Bosnia, 15 to 20 years after the Bosnian conflicts of the 1990s.


  • Provides readers with a broad understanding of the relationship between disease and epidemics and their impact upon (and by) wars
  • Helps non-medical professionals grasp some of the important elements of specific epidemics—such as disease vectors and common factors assisting diffusion—through explanations in easily understood language
  • Blends the perspective from humanistic and social science studies with critical information from science on topics that have continually impacted nations and societies over the ages
  • Clarifies the confusing details of similar yet different diseases for readers without medical or scientific backgrounds
Rebecca M. Seaman, PhD, is dean of social sciences and humanities at Olympic College in Bremerton, WA. She served as author/editor of "Conflict in Early America: An Encyclopedia of the Spanish Empire’s Aztec, Inca and Mayan Conquests" in the World at War series for ABC-CLIO. She has authored several articles on colonial and revolutionary America and British topics. Seaman also served as the managing editor of Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians for the past five years. Her background is in early American history, with a specialty in Native American studies. Seaman is a graduate of the U.S. Army's Military History Instructor's Course (MHIC) at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, and she taught military history for more than three years. She earned her bachelor of science degree in social science secondary education from Columbus State University and her master’s degree and doctorate in history from Auburn University.


"Through its clear discussion of medical and military information, this book adeptly conveys the complicated relationship between epidemics and war."—Booklist, October 8, 2018

"Epidemics and War is a must read for those who want to understand the global effect disease can have, especially during times of war."—ARBA, September 15, 2018
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