Plagues and Peoples

Plagues and Peoples

William Hardy McNeill / Jan 17, 2020

Plagues and Peoples 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 poli

  • Title: Plagues and Peoples
  • Author: William Hardy McNeill
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 490
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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,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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      Published :2019-03-04T13:54:57+00:00

    About "William Hardy McNeill"

      • William Hardy McNeill

        aka William William Hardy McNeill is a Canadian American world historian and author, particularly noted for his writings on Western civilization He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago where he has taught since 1947.


    1. This book was alright. The author knows his stuff and he's very informative. Most of his conclusions are reasonable, and he provides a fresh look at history that his contemporaries have not accounted for.However, I hold several reservations concerning his guesswork where information was lacking. McNeill readily admits that he's working with limited sources and most of his conclusions are fine, but there are times when I don't agree with his logic. There's also some outdated concepts within his a [...]

    2. Finally finished this book. It took me a while to read it due to personal stuff and the subject matter, but it ended up being one of my favorites (hence the labor of love category). It being a favorite is leading me to believe I have a soft spot for environmental history. Yes the book was much about epidemiology, but the focus was also very much on how certain diseases were possible within certain environments – how they got there, how they survived there, and how those environments were affec [...]

    3. An entertaining, if depressing, book on how history has been shaped by disease and pathogens. If you liked Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel, this book is all about the germs, and about more than just the modern era: there are interesting comments on the Black Death and the rise of "childhood diseases" and why the tropics are still to be feared in terms of disease (and why climate change is so worrisome, even though that fear postdates the book by a few decades).

    4. This is what I call an "airplane book" as no one will bother you when you read it because its so alarming. Other great books on this genre (different authors) are "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach (much more readable, this author has a charming sense of humor) and the "The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers" by Scott Carney (a very readable author, very much in tune and sympathetic to the subject at h [...]

    5. This book by William McNeil offers an interesting interpretation of the way that epidemic disease has shaped the course of world history from ancient times to the present day, a topic that the author asserts has been neglected in traditional historical accounts. The book is written in a charmingly old-fashioned style which is pleasant to read, although it is at times a bit tediously wordy and the citations are sparser than I would like.Nevertheless, here is one passage from the Introduction that [...]

    6. When I was in undergrad, I created a timeline of events in the ancient world for a class and noticed that plagues seemed to follow the importation of new spices, and religious upheaval (spreading/decimating) seemed to follow plagues. For years in the back of my mind I wondered if anyone else had ever looked at historical events through the lens of disease, and lo and behold, all these years later, I found out someone did--Plagues and Peoples is a general survey of world history with a particular [...]

    7. McNeill in this seminal volume offers a very interesting and informative overview of the past interactions and continuing interactions between so-called "macroparasitism"--that is, predation of man upon man--and "microparasitism"--the relation between tribes or nations of men and the organisms in their microenvironment. This may be one of the first books to systematically examine the equilibrium that develops over time as diseases adapt to hosts, and how that microparasitic equilibrium can be di [...]

    8. I had to read this to do a book report for AP world history, and it was definitely a painfully boring waste of time. I skimmed many parts and grew physically tired every time I forced myself to read from it. Plagues and Peoples was so incredibly dull that it took meat leasta month to trudge through it, but the book was still informative and resourceful for class work (I couldn't imagine anyone reading this for fun).

    9. Only a historian would know how to beat a dead horse to this extreme. Unfortunately, the redundancy in the first section was enough to kill the interesting stuffad this only if you have trouble sleeping or it's required reading for a school course.

    10. Nobody comprehends the universe, because it is almost entirely out of sight. We also can’t see the universe of microorganisms here on Earth, or fully comprehend their powerful influence. Historian William McNeill learned that disease has played a major role in the human journey, and he wrote a fascinating introduction to our intimate companions, the parasites, in Plagues and Peoples.All critters eat. Hosts provide food, and parasites consume it. Large-bodied parasites, like wolves, are macro-p [...]

    11. This book, a fresh and wide-ranging look at the links between disease and history, is full of startling and dramatic connections and almost seems designed to provoke. To take one example out of many, McNeill blames the rise of Christianity and the Fall of Rome on plague. He realizes, of course, that the majority of such sweeping generalizations are mere speculation, and indeed he writes at one point that it is only through the dialectic that radical arguments provoke that new historical insight [...]

    12. Originally published in the mid 1970s, this may be the first history book to focus on the effects of disease on human civilizations. Beginning with the start of recorded history and continuing into the 20th century, McNeil traces various plagues and their consequences to human populations. Empires have risen and fallen to plagues. McNeil leaves no corner of the globe untouched: Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand are all covered. It is this book that properly restor [...]

    13. While the book's subject matter is fairly interesting, McNeill has a tendency to repeat himself and uses language that can only kindly be described as verbose.One notices that the tone of the text is quite long-winded and repetitive.A few paragraphs in and you begin to perceive a discourse, of sorts, that is familiar, the reader having read a similar statement earlier in the text, and whose verbage is unnecessarily convoluted.Catch my drift? Try 300 Pages of that.

    14. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with Plagues and Peoples. I had expected discussion of exactly what cultural ramifications disease epidemics have had throughout history. The movement of disease and the large-scale changes that forced upon populations throughout history was discussed in great detail, but the CULTURAL impact of all this was not the focus. Instead, McNeill took a very empirical, scientific view of history, and chose to look at it as a series of events and interactions between or [...]

    15. Civilized diseases. This is the book that first alerted me to the way some germs and viruses have altered human history, much as pigeons have become a part of our daily environment. As we have developed the previously virgin landscape of the world, we have unwittingly unleashed the microbes intent on destroying us. Tit-for-tat. Throw in the 'peoples' element, such as Roman legionnaires turning on their own communities or Mongols burning villages and their occupants into ashes, and one wonders wh [...]

    16. Written back in ’76 the view expressed in the book is only more pertinent today when we have no dearth of theories explaining macro-level human state development and history (J. Diamond, I. Morris, F. Fukuyama, D. Landes, D.Acemoglue, J. Henrich). McNeill asserts that for most of history human intelligence was completely blind when it came to microbiology and as a result to this day we underestimate the effects that pathogens have had on development of human societies. His sets out to correct [...]

    17. This work seemlessly unites archaeology, history, and microbial biology by looking at how infectious diseases have caused our history. The deepest implications are reserved for our future, but the resolution of the past is brought into clarity as well. McNeil points to the sucess of Muhammed and Alexander the Great and argues that they owe more to diseases ravaging the conquered rather than the military prowess of the conquerer. Simple facts such as the density of cities and the rates of infecti [...]

    18. If you think we control the world, think again. This book traces the influence of diseases on history. It's compelling reading. It's interesting that this is a part of history rarely studied, except for some mention of the Black Plague, in college classes, though again and again disease interrupts the plans and course of men.

    19. This is an interdisciplinary work, an epidemiological history of humanity. For me, it represented an entirely new perspective whereby the political events emphasized in standard histories were radically relativized. Indeed, when one compares the devastations and distruptions caused by human agencies to that, say, of rats, the rodents have often come across as more influential than homo sapiens.

    20. Detailed and thoughtful. I would've liked to see some of the theories expounded upon and expanded to include a more recent history of epidemics within the past forty years.

    21. What can you do when you want to study a certain aspect of human history, and almost no-one before you has looked into the issue before? What can you do when the sources that could enlighten you on this issue, are lacking, or are only available for a relatively recent time periode? That is the challenge William H. McNeill saw himself up to when he started this study on plagues and peoples. In his introduction he’s very honest about this: “Many of my suggestions and inferences remain tentativ [...]

    22. "Plagues and Peoples" is a classic and a pioneering study at the same time. A classic, because McNeill draws from his rich knowledge of world history and looks at the problem of diseases and epidemics from a global point of view, with which he was several decades ahead of the recent World/Global History-movement. A pioneering study because this book is full of hypotheses and guesses. McNeill has no problem to acknowledge this, simply because before him (this book was published in 1976) hardly an [...]

    23. _Plagues and Peoples_ by William H. McNeill is an absolutely brilliant work of history; though originally published in 1977 it is still insightful and influential. Just as Brian Fagan in _The Long Summer_ viewed human history through the prism of climatic change, McNeill in this work showed how the world got to be the way it is in large part thanks to disease. How the various communities of humans in the world came to an accommodation with those infectious diseases that were able to reach epidem [...]

    24. A history of the interaction of human history and disease, from ancient times to the present (i.e. the mid 1970's). Fascinating study of how epidemics have affected the course of history, including how diseases spread between Europe and Africa to the Americas after 1492. But earlier conquests also had medical consequences too, for example the Mongol conquest of much of Asia in the 13th century, which perhaps facilitated the spread of the bubonic plague (the Black Death) in the 14th century. The [...]

    25. To really understand history, everyone should read this book. It will completely change the way you look at history - it's incredible to me that I studied history through high school and college, and never really thought about measles, small pox, yellow fever, and their role in history. McNeill is a master at connecting disparate parts of history - from the black plague to changes in roofing to the expulsion of the Jews. Plus, this book is just a lot of fun to read.

    26. Upon re-read, still extremely impressed. So many throwaway paragraphs that could be scientific articles or books on their ownOne of the best nonfiction books I've ever read. It is a bit dated, and from recent reviews I've read, some of the more speculative parts of it have not held up all that well, but the general thesis of the work has apparently gained traction (according a UChicago book review I link at the end.) It's the 'Germ' of Jared Diamond's work.McNeill argues that disease has played [...]

    27. Even though it was written 40 years ago, I thought it would still be a fairly relevant telling of how germs have shaped civilizations. But due to its plodding, repetitious nature, it never really shares what I was hoping it would. Good writing, but too academic for me.

    28. An important understanding of the relationship of infectious disease and human history. Dense theoretical writing, but brings it together well such that the reader leaves with a good understanding of the subject matter.

    29. McNeill’s book describes in detail micro and macro parasites and their impact on societies. The early chapters are very hypothetical and theoretical in nature but when he covers recorded history the book is more readable. I feel that macro parasites (war, climate, economic systems, etc) didn’t fit as a plague as did the micro parasites topics of diseases, pests, viruses, and germs.

    30. The author presents an overview of history viewed through the lens of the effects of disease on crucial historic events. The result is a fascinating perspective.

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