Epidemics and Society
A review of

Epidemics and Society

From the Black Death to the Present

Frank SnowdenYale UP • 2019

A History of Epidemics

by David Meyer

Yale University’s Frank M. Snowden brilliantly discusses centuries of epidemics and their societal effects.

Diseases shape history

In this timely and engaging history, Frank M. Snowden, the Orrick Professor Emeritus of History and the History of Medicine at Yale University, reports that the world faces epidemics of emergent diseases – such as COVID-19, Ebola and HIV/AIDS – and of resurgent ones, like cholera and tuberculosis. He discusses the ways in which diseases have shaped history as powerfully as “wars, revolutions and economic disasters.”

The Wall Street Journal called this a “brilliant and sobering” look at the history and human costs of pandemics. Snowden’s other books exploring the impact of disease on culture and society are Naples in the Time of Cholera, 1884-1911 and The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962. Worthwhile – less academic – works on similar topics include John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza and Laura Spinney’s Pale Rider.

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