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Starting in extreme antiquity (in Earth's hunter-gatherer era for the earliest humans), the author makes a strong case for revising the explanations for many key points in human history based on the role of bacteria and viruses in those transitions. My view of world history will never be the same. This book is enlivened by genetic data previously only published in recent but paywalled academic journals accessible to few readers. The most likely causes of ancient pandemics are also explored.
MaureenRoy | 4 andre anmeldelser | Aug 28, 2023 |
Plagues and disease shaped many events in prehistory and history.
To me, the most interesting part of this broad survey was the information about DNA variation and diseases in Neaderthals, Homo Sapiens and Denisovan, and the speculation that Homo Sapiens brought disease that caused the Neaderthals to die out, although about 2% of the modern human genome is shared with Neanderthals. Citing the recent book by Graeber and Wengrow on the Neolithic revolution, the auther also discusses the human immunity to smallpox and other diseases of herd animals. These topics were new, but the rest of the story of disease in history was discussed in McNeil's "Plagues and Peoples" from 1976. Bacteria and viruses were protagonists in the Peloponesian War, the growth of Islam, the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the counquest of Mexico and the Incas, the rise of the trans-Atlantic trade in African slaves, and in European exploitation of Africa. Christianity rose to prominence in the wake of a series of deadly pandemics that swept through the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries. The fact that Christians cared for the sick attracted converts.
The author discusses mainly secondary sources in the text, but there are primary references in the bibliography. He has a UK and European moral disdain for the role of the US in history, and in the later parts of the book seems more concerned with supporting progressive political notions of diversity and third world moral superiority than in the medical history of infectious diseases.
… (mere)
neurodrew | 4 andre anmeldelser | Jul 7, 2023 |
Socialist/progressive/communist author. Book is more politics than plagues.
MaxwellT | 4 andre anmeldelser | May 31, 2023 |
The relationship between pathogens and their hosts is explored here, particularly how it can be argued that the development of human society can be linked to the development of disease. Starting before general history, this book uses evidence from written and scientific sources to plot the growth of civilisation and to reconsider major moments in history from the perspective of how pathogens showed influence. Combining my two loves of science and history, I found this book really engrossing.
1 stem
pluckedhighbrow | 4 andre anmeldelser | May 13, 2023 |



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