Reading Guides

Coronavirus – Epidemics from History Set it in Context – A Reading Guide

With the non-stop stream of news about the coronavirus and its effects around the globe, it is helpful for us to pause and set it in the context of other epidemics from history   …

While we should take all the precautionary measures (handwashing!) in the face of the coronavirus, reading about other historical epidemics can 1) adjust our perspective, realizing that our situation could be much, much worse and 2) make us grateful for (and more attentive to) the medical knowledge and technology that has been developed in the wake of these historical epidemics.

Here are a few book recommendations that tell the history of some of the worst epidemics that the world has known….


Coronavirus history reading guide

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

John M. Barry

The strongest weapon against pandemic is the truth. Read why in the definitive account of the 1918 Flu Epidemic.

Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research, The Great Influenza provides us with a precise and sobering model as we confront the epidemics looming on our own horizon. As Barry concludes, “The final lesson of 1918, a simple one yet one most difficult to execute, is that…those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best. A leader must make whatever horror exists concrete. Only then will people be able to break it apart.”

At the height of World War I, history’s most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease.




 
 

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IMAGE CREDIT: Women wearing surgical masks during the influenza epidemic, Brisbane, 1919 (Public Domain via Wikipedia)





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