This book describes the dramatic impact of infectious diseases on the rise and fall of civilisations. Plague demoralized the Athenian army during the Peloponnesian war, and ravaged the Roman Empire. In the 16th century smallpox was the decisive agent that allowed Cortez with only 600 men to conquer the Aztec empire, whose subjects numbered ...
This book describes the dramatic impact of infectious diseases on the rise and fall of civilisations. Plague demoralized the Athenian army during the Peloponnesian war, and ravaged the Roman Empire. In the 16th century smallpox was the decisive agent that allowed Cortez with only 600 men to conquer the Aztec empire, whose subjects numbered millions. As recently as 1918-19 an epidemic of influenza claimed twenty-one million victims, and seemed to threaten civilization itself. Diseases such as syphilis, cholera, smallpox and malariahave been devastating to humanity for centuries. Now professor McNeill, through an accumulation of evidence, demonstrates the central role of pestilence in human affairs and the extent to which it has changed the course of history.
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Great book for anyone interested in disease, society, culture, world civilization, and most of all - history. Plagues and Peoples is a tale of the oppressor and the oppressed, the host and the victim. The book is wonderful in helping understand both separate historical events and the general trends that shaped human history, especially in its early stages.
Reading the book also raises one's appreciation for various cultures and societies that have existed in various corners of the globe, with their own little ways of dealing with life, overshadowed by deadly pathogens they had no idea about.
McNeill is particularly good at describing the social nature of disease. Plague and pestilence will never simply be the random ravages of a nasty germ having read this book. Epidemics follow predictable patterns and exact damage in a systematic manner that is not be overlooked by a student of society.
Disease is not just thickly woven into histories of nations, but is also uniquely understood by those that encounter it. The religious, philosophic, and poetic grappling with hellish affliction is a sight to behold.
A classic that deserves the title.
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