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review 2018-10-23 06:04
Plagues and Peoples by William Hardy McNeill
Plagues and Peoples - William Hardy McNeill

TITLE:  Plagues and Peoples

 

AUTHOR:  William Hardy McNeill

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  1998, first published 1976

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9780307773661

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DESCRIPTION:

"Upon its original publication, Plagues and Peoples was an immediate critical and popular success, offering a radically new interpretation of world history as seen through the extraordinary impact--political, demographic, ecological, and psychological--of disease on cultures. From the conquest of Mexico by smallpox as much as by the Spanish, to the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe, the history of disease is the history of humankind. With the identification of AIDS in the early 1980s, another chapter has been added to this chronicle of events, which William McNeill explores in his new introduction to this updated editon.

Thought-provoking, well-researched, and compulsively readable, Plagues and Peoples is that rare book that is as fascinating as it is scholarly, as intriguing as it is enlightening. "A brilliantly conceptualized and challenging achievement" (Kirkus Reviews), it is essential reading, offering a new perspective on human history.
"

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This is an interesting and somewhat scholarly look at how people and diseases have interacted and evolved together over time, from "man the hunter" to "the ecological impact of medical science and organization since 1700".  McNeil examines macroparisitic and microparisitic effects on the growth of civilizations, focusing primarily on diseases and how epidemics have effected world history, the course of civilization and human evolution.

I found the sections where the author discusses the "living conditions" of diseases particularly interesting:  how a specific disease inhabited a certain enviornment, how it arrived and survived in that environment, and how those environments may have been altered by human impacts such as agricultural activities, population growth (or lack thereof), how the disease spread to other areas etc.  McNeill's comparison between human micro-parasites (bacteria, worms, viruses) and our macro-parasites (governments, armies ,raiders, plunderers) was a particularly thought-provoking and novel (to me) aspect of the book.

The book was originally published in 1976, so some details are a bit dated, but this doesn't detract from the overall thesis.  The writing style is also a bit "old-fashioned" if that sort of thing bothers you.  The author does, however, make use of historical sources that include as much of the globe as possible, so the spread between and effects of epidemics on Europe as well as of China, India, the Middle-East, the America's and Africa are discussed where possible (allowing for existing source material on these regions).

This is an interesting, fundamental and thought-provoking book about the interactions of humans and diseases and the course of human history.

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-02 08:14
Globalography by Chris Fitch
Globalography - mapping our connected world: An atlas of our globalised world in 50 stunning maps - Chris Fitch

TITLE:  Globalography:  Our Interconnected World in 50 Maps

 

AUTHOR:  Chris Fitch, maps by Sam Vickars

 

EXPECTED PUBLICATION DATE:  23 October 2018:

 

FORMAT:  ARC PDF

 

ISBN-13:  9781781317914

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NOTE: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is my honest opinion of the book.

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DESCRIPTION:

“We present 50 unique maps –  each in its own beautiful and fascinating style –  that chart the globalography of our world. We live in an era of incredible connections and inter-dependency; connected through aid, migration, trade, finance and the invisible lines of culture, data, technology and ideas. These are not maps of nations in isolation, but of processes, trade links, flows of people, arts, cultures and objects. Each map examines the links, bonds and conflicts that brings our world together, creating a fascinating and intricate atlas of our connected planet.

 

Split into 6 categories the essential, curious, invisible and intricate connections that make up are world are mapped. Each map is accompanied by an essay by Chris Fitch, whose vivid text provides expert insight on how the connections have been formed and what they tell us about our world.

 

Cities: how the city has grown bigger than the nation, charting the links that brings the world's cities together

Culture: mapping the trade links, idea sharing and unbreakable bonds of cultures that spread across boundaries

Military: the bonds that define and break borders

Objects: marking the routes, locations and links that connected lands and space through our things

Nature: the lines and flows of the natural world

Human: charting the links of people, languages, families and the influences of people “

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Globalography attempts to explore individual examples that reveal how the new globalized world really operates.  This book contains 50 double spread, full colour maps that reveal the many ways in which we now connect with each other across the globe.  This book illustrates the radical way globalization is transforming out world.  Each map is accompanied by a brief article (also spread over 2 pages) that usually contains statistics and that I found somewhat superficial in most cases.  I felt that some of the map legends could have been clearer in terms of the statistics they were representing.  The 50 topics include such items as bananas, tourism, uranium, football players, wind energy, messenger apps, skyscrapers, cinema, cocoa, car exports, honey etc.  This is a cute, colourful and interesting coffee table book that one buys for the pictures, not the text. 

 

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review 2018-09-16 02:40
Out in Oct
A History of the World in 21 Women - Jenni Murray

Disclaimer: ARC via Librarything

 

                We love lists.  We make shopping lists, reading lists, to read lists, movie lists, and on and on.  Any book or article that publishes a list is going to get called on that list.  So, let’s get that bit out of the way.

 

                Murray’s list of 21 women starts in Ancient Egypt and goes to Cathy Freeman.  There is a total of eight women of color, three from the US, and two from France and Russia.  Every continent is represented, except South America, which is a bit annoying.  Bonus points for having Australia represented by an Aboriginal woman.  There is a nice mixture of women in the arts, politics, and sciences.  It’s true that a reader does wonder why some lesser known women aren’t mentioned, why, in some cases, the standard women are trotted out.  And couldn’t a woman from South America make the list?  But all the women either were or are highly influential, usually in more than one field. 

 

                But quite frankly, it was so wonderful to see Toni Morrison here, and she isn’t the only artist.

 

                Jenni Murray, host of BBC’s Women Hour, details 21 women using an amazing personal voice as well as with a good critical eye.  At times her personal admiration really does shine though.  Honesty, Merkel, c’mon, let Murray talk to you, basically so she can ask you if you really did read Playboy to understand Trump. 

 

                Murray also does not whitewash the flaws in the women.  IN fact, at times, she notes her own conflicts with some of the actions the women take – for instance Queen Isabella’s prosecutions of Jews.  She handles Bhutto’s political history deftly.  The tone of the writing is totally engaging, and the book is quite easy to dip in and out of.  It is as if you are listening to Murray present on the radio.

               

                The portraits of each woman are incredibly lovely.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-03 16:12
A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal Than War by Philip Norrie
A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal than War - Philip Norrie

TITLE:  A History of Disease in Ancient Times: More Lethal Than War

 

AUTHOR:  Philip Norrie

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Hardcover

 

ISBN-13:  9783319289366

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DESCRIPTION:


"This book shows how bubonic plague and smallpox helped end the Hittite Empire, the Bronze Age in the Near East and later the Carthaginian Empire. The book will examine all the possible infectious diseases present in ancient times and show that life was a daily struggle for survival either avoiding or fighting against these infectious disease epidemics. The book will argue that infectious disease epidemics are a critical link in the chain of causation for the demise of most civilizations in the ancient world and that ancient historians should no longer ignore them, as is currently the case."

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REVIEW:

 

Dr. Philip Norrie has produced a delectable book that explores the way in which infectious diseases affected the course of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern history.  I get the impression this book is the result of the author’s doctoral thesis rewritten into a book.  A wealth of interesting and new (to me) information was provided, without personal asides or irrelevant commentary.  The author presents evidence for epidemic impacts from a variety of sources – historic, archaeologic, linguistic, medical, social, anthropological and economic.  Author makes use of the available evidence to prove his hypothesis.  Speculation is kept to a minimum and clearly explained when necessary. 

 

The general hypothesis is that most major changes in the Ancient world were precipitated by infectious disease epidemics.  Dr Norrie also succeeded in illustrating that disease can have a significant impact on major historic events.  The author makes use of several examples such as the end of the Hittite Empire, the end of the Near Eastern Bronze Age in c.1200 B.C., the end of Carthage; and interesting anomalies in Ancient Egypt during the reign of Amenhotep III.   The type of infectious disease causing the epidemic is also examined.  Dr Norrie shows the reader that disease, in the form of several infectious disease epidemics, fits the medical model to explain three factors about the end of the Bronze Age:  (1) the short time frame of the Catastrophe; (2) the mass migrations of the general population but also the “Sea Peoples”; and (3) the abandonment of cities during the Catastrophe.  This book offers new perspectives, possibilities and insights into the role that epidemics played in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean history.  I find Dr Norrie’s arguments convincing and logical.

 

Dr Norrie is also at pains to emphasise the lack of attention that ancient historians have given to the effect of epidemics.  In the author’s own words, he hopes that,

in future, ancient historians consider the potential role of infectious disease in the histories they research and subsequently write.  If disease is not considered and is ignored, as is the current situation, then the resultant history may be incomplete and thus flawed; because you cannot administer or feed let alone defend your empire if your citizens are dying en-masse due to an infectious disease epidemic”.

 

This isn’t just a dry thesis on ancient epidemics, but a text full of interesting information, causes, effects, and the occassional personal history (where possible).  Who knew that Ramses V had smallpox, or there are Egyptian wall murals showing polio sufferers with leg braces?  Or that the Hittites used tularemia (rabbit fever) infected sheep as the first form of germ warfare 3200 years ago.  Or that the bubonic plague might have been carried to Egypt from India via a trade vessel? Or that Amenhotep III moved his capital from the plague infested river side to the middle of the desert?  Or that Carthage would have conquered the Mediterranean except for all the diseases that decimated the Carthagian army in Sicily. 

 

This book has a juicy selection of references and a variety of notes, as well as a section on the heart-rending Plague Prayers of the Hittite King Mursili II pleading with the gods to save his people from the pestilence afflicting them and ruining his kingdom. 

 

Dr. Norrie has published an interesting, clearly-written, perfectly understandable, concise piece of research.  I look forward to whatever he publishes on his current research topic - the role of disease in the demise of the Sumerian and Indus Valley Civilizations.

 

FYI (because I've never heard of it before):  Tularemia info

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text 2018-08-11 17:15
Damn you, publishing industry!
The Secret World: A History of Intelligence - Christopher M. Andrew

There are times when I just want the publishing industry to take a year off so I can get caught up on my reading backlog. It's a sentiment that I felt again when I read about Christopher Andrew's new book. How am I expected to make progress in my TBR pile when they keep publishing books like this?

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