McNeill, William H. Plagues and Peoples. Littleton, CO: Paw Prints, 2008. pp. 340

“Plagues and Peoples” gives a concise description of the origin of diseases and disease resurgence across the world. Diseases are said to increase as time goes by. Social, economic, cultural and political factors are some of the prime factors that have led to the increase of diseases. It is also beyond doubts that ecosystem changes, urbanization, inequality, gender relations and poverty are the contributive factors in the spread of diseases.[1] The article “Plagues and diseases” therefore gives information on the past and current disease growth rate. Social factors have led to drug resistance hence the persistence of contagious diseases.

The book also refers to social, political and economic factors to have been the major causes of the diseases. It talks about the research of pathogens from research on epidemics by use of the pathogenic paradigm to research on health. The book states that the resurgence of diseases is mainly perpetrated by social and political changes, macro economic forces and social conflicts. Social science sub disciplines like medical anthropology, medical sociology, health economics and medical geography dealt with the social economic and political factors in the traditional society without any kind of links between the life science and the social science.

The author of the book depicts diseases as the main or inventive shaper of history. Diseases are described to be the major deterrent factors towards historical progression. The author explains that the population of human beings and diseases had come to equality during the Neolithic revolution. Changes were brought about by agriculture, which included development of large communities and the upcoming of inactive lifestyles. The changes triggered the rise in disease growth rate. This was because of an environment that that led to the evolution of diseases for both the human beings and the domesticated animals.[2] These diseases mostly affected the young members of the society after the equilibrium of the human population and diseases.

Renewed trade networks also led to the spread of diseases especially the Black Death, which was facilitated by the Mongol polity. The diseases later reduced after several centuries and especially in America with the reduction in population of domestic animals. The modern world is described to be the end of many diseases and epidemics. This has caused a major historic course change in the world.

According to the author, Modernization has led to decrease of diseases in the world. This is because of the upcoming modern factors that help in eradication of diseases in the modern society.[3] Critically, it is true to say that the modern social, economic and political factors have led to reduction of diseases. Agricultural factors that influenced the spread of the diseases also led to increase of diseases have been eradicated in the modern world to pave way for the decrease of diseases. In conjunction with agriculture, domestic population has also decreased hence the decrease of diseases spread by the domestic animals.

Trade is another factor that led to increase in the spread of diseases in the ancient world. The movement of people or trade products from one place to another led to the spread of diseases in the community. People could spread diseases to each other through social, economic or political interaction. Different regions of the world had different prevailing diseases hence sick people could spread the diseases to other people in the different parts of the world through interaction. It is also clear that trade products could also lead to spread of more diseases to the spread of the diseases. Edible products especially industrial products are likely to cause diseases to human beings. There are also diseases that are caused by the consumption of agricultural products.

Civilization can also be voted as a major factor that led to decreased epidemics. People got educated and were able to learn more on the ways and means of protecting themselves from diseases.[4] More scientists and doctors also came up with means and ways to cure the diseases. Medical facilities were also invented that helped in curing the diseases. It is evident in the book that the author’s aim is to inform people or readers on historical changes in the world.

Diseases are therefore used to show historical changes in political, social and economic status of the current world. Modernization is forms of historical change hence decrease in diseases caused historical change in the world. Historical change can however be said to be vague bin the book by the fact that the text is not supported by detailed historical citations. For example, he says that extension into the south of China could only be finished after settlers became used to the disease surroundings. The sources of this information are however vague, and only a single direct quotation is applied. Similarly, his claim that the crumple of the Mongol Empire was because of plague is true, but he does not use concrete information to support it.

The author also majors so much on Europe community because most information and sources are of European origin. It is therefore clear that the author did more than to accomplish the purpose although his message is realistic. In conclusion, the book is reliable in educating people on the origin and spread of diseases hence scholars should rely on it in learning more about historical changes from the book.[5] Although there is vague information in the book, the book has concrete information about the historical changes. It is through the information offered in the book that people are able to learn more about social, economic and political factors and their impacts to diseases. The impacts of modernization are portrayed in the book hence it helps students learn more about the historical changes and development of societies (McNeill, 1998).




[1] William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples. (Littleton, CO: Paw Prints, 2008): 103

[2] Ibid, 154

[3] Ibid, 173

[4] Ibid, 243

[5] Ibid, 56

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