Modern society is far removed from the reality of death. That was not the case for the vast majority of human history, when parents would produce multiple offspring in the hope that a few might survive to adulthood. Well into the 20th century, infectious diseases cut lives tragically short, often in gruesome ways, radically transforming the course of human history in ways that are underappreciated in textbooks.
This is the focus of a book written by emeritus biology professor Irwin Sherman called “Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World,” which was originally published in 2007 but has taken on renewed relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sherman masterfully interweaves explanations of the biology and epidemiology of the diseases with accounts, taken from historians or eyewitnesses, that are nauseatingly descriptive. Read the rest at Geopolitical Futures.