- Tapa blanda: 418 páginas
- Editor: Yale University Press; Edición: New Ed (10 de noviembre de 1999)
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0300080875
- ISBN-13: 978-0300080872
- Valoración media de los clientes: Sé el primero en opinar sobre este producto
- Clasificación en los más vendidos de Amazon: nº561.238 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros (Ver el Top 100 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros)
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Epidemics and History: Disease, Power and Imperialism (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 10 nov 1999
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This book is a major and wide-ranging study of the great epidemic scourges of humanity-plague, leprosy, smallpox, syphilis, cholera, and yellow fever/malaria-over the last six centuries. It will become the standard account of the way diseases arising through chance, through reckless environmental change engineered by man, or through a combination of each were interpreted in Western Europe and in the colonized world. "This trenchant book provides a salutary antidote to world health complacency, past and present."-Roy Porter, The Times (London) "Watts' . . . mastery of six centuries of Western-influenced infectious disease and sanitation history is impressive. He also writes with authority about the pre-modern and modern medical profession."-Claire Panosian, Los Angeles Times Book Review "Watts offers solid, stunning examples of Western idiocy that created superhighways for once-obscure microbes, leading to horrendous epidemics. . . . His is a perspective that Western, particularly Caucasian, policy-makers would do well to comprehend."-Laurie Garrett, Foreign Affairs "The convenience of so much history of diseases in one place is obvious. [An] engrossing book."-Gert Brieger, M.D., New England Journal of Medicine "An important contribution to our understanding of the history of disease, public health, and imperialism."-Suzanne Austin Alchon, American Historical Review
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But this book cannot do better than raise the questions. There are both scientific and historical aspects to this book, but the editing did not bring the writing close to scientific standards. Many generalizations are based on a single piece of evidence. Primary sources are cited without considering that the author's comments may have been self-serving.
Epidemics and History loses its way badly when it tries to intuit the intentions of groups of people, rather than letting their actions speak for themselves. A word count would reveal unusually high frequencies for "desire," "intention," "understanding," "perception," and so forth. I wonder to what extent groups of people through history have been aware of themselves as groups, as the book assumes throughout. Further, it tries to inflame with unnecessary emotive language. Pity.
Academic anti-imperialism was the wrong voice for this work. Watts' research is interesting, theses provocative. But the writing is all wrong. Where were the editors?
If you are interested in the history of disease, you do want to know what Watts says. But the flawed writing makes this a frustrating read.
Watts uses distinctive historical epidemics to illustrate his argument including the bubonic plague, leprosy, smallpox, syphilis, cholera, yellow fever, and malaria. Each chapter engages in defining these diseases in terms of both their physical and constructed sense, and then explains how these diseases were viewed in their respective periods. Watts argues that this is very important because diseases cannot be fully understood outside of their social and political context. This argument is the book’s strongest point. In each of the chapters Watts analyzes the constructs, uses, and methods of control used by the ruling elite to combat the spread of disease. Using a narrative that keeps the reader engaged, Watts addresses the invention of disease control during the bubonic plague in Western Europe and the Middle East, the construct of leprosy in the Medieval West and the Imperial Tropics, the use of smallpox in both the New World and the Old, the perception and commercialization of syphilis in Western Europe and East Asia, the role of science and politics in controlling cholera in Britain and India, and the human cost of development when assisted by malaria and yellow fever in Atlantic Africa and the New World.
Watts does a great job of illustrating the course of epidemic disease in terms of imperialist history and offers varying levels of insight into what role epidemic diseases have played in altering the course of history. For the reader with a casual interest in epidemics this book offers a broad survey of seven major epidemics and how imperial powers at the time dealt with them. This broad take on epidemics and imperialism can also however be seen as a weakness as well as a strength. Because of both the multiple timeframes involved and the multiple diseases, this book is unable to offer any in depth analysis to any one of the particular diseases. Indeed, each one of these chapters has a great potential to be a book unto itself. In taking this broad approach, Watts is forced to limit his analysis of certain regions and time periods and in doing so his research raises as many questions as it answers. The main fault of this work however is the ideological bent that permeates much of the research. The writing at times comes off as being very anti-imperialist and Watts uses inflammatory language such as when he refers to one Spanish official as a “genocidal terrorist” (pg 130). This anti-imperialist viewpoint also shows through in some of the inferences that he makes in regards to European intentions, implying at one point that the English engaged in practices that were meant to purposefully spread smallpox to the native inhabitants. (pg 101) Such polemical language and inferences weakens Watts’ main argument by drawing attention away from the otherwise engaging narrative and though provoking arguments. Taken as a whole however this book is an engaging read that illuminates a perspective of epidemic disease in a way that draws broad lines of comparison between imperialism and epidemics. The historian who has little knowledge of the field of medical or disease history will surely find this book valuable and insightful, and the scholar of epidemic disease should find this book to have a refreshing perspective on the relationship of disease and power in world history.