The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics by Paul Chrystal

I kept a close eye on the current pandemic, so when I saw the local library had The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics by Paul Chrystal I borrowed it. I read books by this author before and this is well researched and very interesting too.
The book touches on pandemics from all over the world, starting in the Neolithic and going all the way to the present day, this is a fascinating read. There are all sort of interesting things, such as that in the 180s CE people believed Emperor Ling didn’t want to protect them from a lethal plague, even if he had the power to protect them. Russia declared a truce with the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century as they couldn’t keep high taxes due to plaque. French people in the 1870s were just as vaccine-hesitant as their descendents are today, which was funny to read about. Also, the colour red was seen as a cure for smallpox, so Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles V of France were dressed in red when they had smallpox. These sort of details made the book a delight to read.

There are details on all sort of pandemics, such as cholera, influenza, bubonic plague, leprosy, measles, smallpox. The dancing plague is mentioned too and that must be one of the most interesting chapters in the book, without a doubt. Also new diseases are talked about, such as MERS, SARS, Zika, Ebola. The information is chronological, so at some point it gets a bit repetitive just because there were pandemics of the same diseases again and again. This also shows that people still did the same things even though there was limited knowledge of these previous pandemics.

The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics by Paul Chrystal

The reason I gave the book 4.5 stars was because he talked about COVID-19, with a focus on UK. The pandemic is not over and, as it is with everything, depends on what you are looking at or how you present things. He mentions that the “firebreaker” lockdown would have made a difference but the government didn’t want it. Well, it happened in Wales and… it made no difference. For UK he looks at death toll, for some reason, death rate (toll adjusted per capita) is obviously a much better way to compare. As of today, UK is surpassed by countries such as Belgium, Italy, Poland, and US. Excess mortality is not presented well either.

While he doesn’t talk about New Zealand, it was hailed as an example to follow, but they were still pursuing the zero-covid strategy in August 2021, losing the filming of the Lord of the Rings to UK (means thousands of jobs either direct or indirect, on top of losing tourism), just to change their minds a month later, when it was obvious that zero-covid was impossible to achieve with Delta, something that scientists and politicians were saying for months in the west.

EU countries were presented in the media as doing great and having a better response than UK in the beginning. Today, we have no restrictions in England nor covid passes, but Austria is going into full lockdown; Germany, Czech Republic, and Slovakia have restrictions for unvaccinated (which is so morally dubious and I’m say this as a volunteer for vaccination sites); Netherlands have curfews. Some EU countries had to send covid patients to other EU countries. This is how much the situation can change. All countries either struggled or just shut down completely without taking into account how much the youngsters will be affected on the long term. Without that chapter the book would have received a very well deserved 5 stars.

The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics by Paul Chrystal

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Pen and Sword History
Year it was published: 2021
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Broad history
Pages: 398

About the author: Paul Chrystal attended the Universities of Hull and Southampton where he took degrees in Classics. For the next thirty-five years he worked in medical publishing, much of the time as an international sales director for one market or another while latterly creating medical educational programmes for the pharmaceutical industry. He worked for companies such as Churchill Livingstone, Wiley-Blackwell, CRC Press, Academic Press and Elsevier.
Website & Social Media Links: Pen and Sword

8 thoughts on “The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics by Paul Chrystal”

  • Yes, I think it’s far too soon to be making judgements on how this pandemic has been handled in any country – we’re still in the middle of it! Red was still seen as having healing properties as late as my childhood – specifically red flannel. My memory is vague – it was a long time ago and I was child! – but I think it was used both for things like back pain, and as blankets for children suffering from things like measles and chickenpox.

    • That’s fascinating, I had no idea about red being used as a “cure”. As far as I know there isn’t something similar in Romania, although there were lots of “cures” just like this one.

  • This sounds like a very good book. I can understand why you took off the half star, though. If anything, the fact things are still ongoing should have been reason enough to exclude those parts.

    I remember reading an excellent article in a magazine (can’t recall if it was Discover Magazine or National Geographic) which compared and talked about pandemics/plagues throughout history. Amazing just how many there have been!
    Kelly recently posted…More hummusMy Profile

    • It’s incredible indeed, so many and some of them were coming back after 5-10-20 years, again and again. How scary it must have been for people at that time.

  • I suppose the author was trying to bring things as up to date as possible with Covid 19, but as you say, it is still a very fast-changing and fluid picture everywhere, so I guess his only other alternative would have been not to mention it at all… To be honest, I am all done with pandemic talk now. I just want to stay safe without having people laugh at me for wearing a mask, or not mixing in large groups of people. I have my booster on Monday, but given the amount of triple jabbed people who are still catching Covid, I’m not sure why I am bothering… I’m sure you youngsters have a completely different opinion about the situation!… Enjoy your Sunday, but I’m afraid this isn’t a book for me, at least not right now πŸ™‚
    Yvonne (@Fiction_Books) recently posted…Last Stop On The 6by Patricia DunnReviewMy Profile

    • I agree that this might be a bit too much for some. I’m curious, so for me it was great. Get your booster, it will protect from serious illness. I classify as a frontline worker (for volunteering at vaccination sites) and I will be eligible for my booster on January, I can’t wait to have mine. I also had the flu jab earlier this month (paid for it myself).

      You know, I am wearing masks, including outside if it’s very busy. I’ve been to a few Christmas markets, in Manchester and London, and I had my mask outside. I couldn’t care less if anyone thinks I’m overdoing it. I can’t risk catching covid now, with all the things I need to do for uni + work, so I’m extra careful, while enjoying a normal life (normal as in as pre-pandemic as possible). At uni most of my colleagues are wearing masks.

      • Perhaps it’s just that all the idiots live down here in the south then! πŸ™‚

        We have both had our ‘flu jabs (unfortunately we both qualify for the freebie one this time), and of course I shall get my booster, if a little reluctantly. I guess I feel uncomfortable about how much unknown c**p they are pumping into us and what the long-term effects are going to be on health services which are already stretched to capacity all around the world. Thank you so much for being one of the vaccination volunteers, none of this would have been possible without you! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
        Yvonne (@Fiction_Books) recently posted…Last Stop On The 6by Patricia DunnReviewMy Profile

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