How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS by Jaime Breitnauer

How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS by Jaime Breitnauer* caught my eyes because I thought it will be relevant for my studies next year. It was not, but it was a very interesting book and I’m glad I’ve read it. Despite its name, the book covers a wider period, of over 2,000 years and it is not constrained itself only to the British Isles. I think this makes the book more interesting for a wider audience, as at about 150 pages (without notes and bibliography), it offers enough information to keep readers interested, without getting into details that might be too technical. This is why I would recommend this book to anyone. It covers pandemics, the healthcare response, details on vaccinations, the birth of the NHS, and also it makes a comparison with the US model of healthcare.

How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS by Jaime Breitnauer

While I enjoyed the book very much, I gave it 4 stars because she chose to talk about things that are controversial and that she was aware of, but she felt it fitted her narrative. That might have worked in a longer book or a book just about that specific topic, for example Catholic church and healthcare through the ages, something like that. Besides that, the NHS was not hailed as a spectacular achievement in the 1940s. Her own experiences, coming from a poor working class background was different to someone from a working class (but not as poor) or someone from the middle class. In my studies I was surprised to read that in 1947-1948 many were against the NHS. She should have included a bit of that to give a wider perspective on the subject.

Also, the last two chapters are not great as she shows her bias a bit too much. In the chapter on COVID she said what the government did wrong, but glosses over the vaccination, which was a masterpiece in procurement, hence why Britain was so far ahead of all the others European countries. I’ve attended a lecture given by Dame Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist who was appointed as Head of the Vaccine Taskforce. It was a revolutionary move and a very successful one to say at least.
Last chapter is about what will happen next, which is my pet-hate when it comes to a history book.

As you can see, I am very focused in my critique mainly because I’ve followed closely what was happening. I always make clear why I don’t give 5 stars to a book. That being said, I think the book is great and offers at least a couple of views to think about, for example, in how we look at diseases that are lifestyle related. Furthermore, the book is very interesting and the chapters are just the right size.

How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS by Jaime Breitnauer

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen & Sword History
Year it was published: 2022
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Broad subject – History
Pages: 176

About the author: Jaime Breitnauer is the author of The Spanish Flu Epidemic and its Influence on History. She has a degree and MA in History from the University of Warwick and a particular interest in how disease and healthcare affect social development. When not writing books she works as a journalist, has two children and divides her time between Bristol and New Zealand. How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS is her second book.
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

*I was sent a copy of How the Black Death Gave Us the NHS by Jaime Breitnauer for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

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