HISTORY’S BIGGEST KILLERS


As well as telling us more about earlier societies, the study of diseases in the past is proving an invaluable tool for modern science, as a new book by the historian of medicine Mary Dobson reveals. It’s vitally important to get on top of where and how diseases originate before they have a chance to spread. Understanding these stories is important for stopping diseases in their tracks.

Diseases such as bubonic plague, smallpox, or scurvy, killed so many and caused such misery that they are still household names today, even if for most of us they are things of the past. From an historical perspective, they are also fascinating. By studying these illnesses and their impact, we can understand more about the people for whom such horrors were commonplace and real. Moreover, remarkable and inspiring tales of scientific endeavour are often part of the story of how they were controlled, treated, in some cases cured, and, in the case of smallpox, even eradicated from the globe.

Yet the study of these conditions is about more than simply gleaning historical...

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