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Publisher's Summary

A "brilliant and sobering" (Paul Kennedy, Wall Street Journal) look at the history and human costs of pandemic outbreaks

As seen on 60 Minutes

The World Economic Forum number one book for context on the coronavirus outbreak

This sweeping exploration of the impact of epidemic diseases looks at how mass infectious outbreaks have shaped society, from the Black Death to today, and in a new preface addresses the global threat of COVID-19. In a clear and accessible style, Frank M. Snowden reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and public health, but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare.

A multidisciplinary and comparative investigation of the medical and social history of the major epidemics, this volume touches on themes such as the evolution of medical therapy, plague literature, poverty, the environment, and mass hysteria. In addition to providing historical perspective on diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and tuberculosis, Snowden examines the fallout from recent epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, and Ebola and the question of the world's preparedness for the next generation of diseases.

©2019 Frank M. Snowden (P)2020 Tantor

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What listeners say about Epidemics and Society

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  • Julia
  • 09-07-2021

Absolutely fascinating

This books is a fascinating look into the history of illness in our society - and how we have dealt with it as human beings. It shows that the chaos around COVID is nothing new.

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  • Judy
  • 02-07-2021

A Plague On All Our Houses

Interesting and comprehensive look at some of the more spectacular of the diseases that have afflicted mankind over the centuries, plus a few more that continue to emerge as we soldier on.

To all you anti-vaxxers out there: one good sweeping epidemic of Ebola fever would probably encourage you to reconsider your position.

Narration is fine, except for a few startling missteps, e.g., "president" for "precedent".

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  • K. Bachelor
  • 30-06-2021

History & facts presented in an interesting manner

Narrator was very good.
Subject matter is fascinating to me. It wasn't overly technical, since it is an historic presentation. It filled in gaps in my knowledge painlessly.

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  • Micah D
  • 13-12-2020

Better, more extensive, and deeper than expected

Years ago, I reserved what I thought would be a standard hotel room. Upon arriving, I was stunned to find myself on the top floor in a remarkable room. This book was a similar experience for me. I expected a fairly dry book focused on biomedical matters with just a bit of social context -- and I would have enjoyed that just fine. Instead, Professor Snowden provides an experience that is historical, literary, social, philosophical, and yes biomedical. His fascinating description of Napoleon's military history is just one example. Snowden manages to explore so many interesting topics within the context of a well-organized book while avoiding jargon. Dry? Not at all. Snowden's respect for his readers (listeners) is evident in a writing style that is thoroughly engaging and tightly logical.

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  • Judy
  • 27-11-2020

A Must Read for All interested in the Health of our Planet and it’s Inhabitants

This book gives the ordinary non medical reader, not only a basic understanding of the biology and origin of many of the infectious diseases which have caused human suffering through the ages, but also it shows the personaleffect of the disease and it’s toll on families and societies. It gives examples of how diseases caused major shifts in past Historical events and even outcomes of War. It explains the failure of Governments, and Organizations to prioritize Health as a human right, but also as a mandate, due to our ever greater connectedness of our World Population through commerce and travel. It explains the traumatic effect of commercialization and denuding of forests, causing habitat destruction in contributing to more and more human and wildlife interraction, thus more options for animal to human transfer of diseases. This mass Webb of information, Insight, and warnings for today’s World leaders is told in a manner that is thoroughly interesting, informative, and motivating. The reader of this Book on Audiobooks is superb!

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  • Forester
  • 04-06-2021

A really interesting parallel between epidemics

Written before the current Covid 19 pandemic, but completely illuminating. This discusses the theories which underpinned strange and terrifying sicknesses through the ages and what the medics and authorities did in response.

Our current pandemic is much the same: no firm origin, not much clue about spread and no cure. Some things don't change! Even the measures still used also reflect some of the preventation rules of the 14th century Black Death.

Time has not mitigated some of these ancient scourges and this book really helps us to understand why.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.