Disease has plagued human civilisations throughout history, claiming more lives than natural disasters and warfare combined. The Black Death took the lives of one third of Europe's population in the fourteenth century. The conquest of the New World was accompanied by devastating waves of smallpox. The Industrial Revolution happened in a world blighted by the diseases of urbanisation and overcrowding, typhoid and cholera, typhus and TB. New diseases such as AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 present further challenges to medical science and healthcare. A Short History of Disease chronicles the historical and geographical evolution of infectious and non-infectious diseases, from their prehistoric origins to the present. It offers a comprehensive guide to ailments and the medicines developed to combat them. Analysing case studies - including the Black Death, Spanish Flu, cholera, leprosy, syphilis, cancer, and Ebola - Sean Martin maps the growth of our understanding of disease. The book offers a fascinating insight into an important area of social history, providing an accessible introduction to disease and the ongoing quest to protect human health. The second edition contains an afterword on COVID-19, looking at the origins and nature of the virus, and how governments across the globe dealt with the most serious public health emergency in a century.
Seán Martin is a writer, poet and filmmaker. He is the author of The Knights Templar, The Cathars, The Gnostics, The Black Death, Alchemy and Alchemists, A Short History of Disease and, for Kamera Books, Andrei Tarkovsky and New Waves in Cinema. His films include Lanterna Magicka: Bill Douglas & the Secret History of Cinema ('a fine documentary' - Guardian), Folie à Deux, and a series of documentaries on Tarkovsky: Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev: A Journey and The Dream in the Mirror.