In this small book David Herlihy makes subtle and subversive inquiries that challenge historical thinking about the Black Death. Looking beyond the view of the plague as unmitigated catastrophe, Herlihy finds evidence for its role in the advent of new population controls, the establishment of universities, the spread of Christianity, the dissemination of vernacular cultures, and even the rise of nationalism. This book, which displays a distinguished scholar's masterly synthesis of diverse materials, reveals that the Black Death can be considered the cornerstone of the transformation of Europe.
The Black Death in Europe, from its arrival in 1347-52 through successive waves into the early modern period, has been seriously misunderstood. It is clear from the compelling evidence presented in this revolutionary account that the Black Death was almost any disease other than the rat-based bubonic plague whose bacillus was discovered in 1894. Since the late nineteenth century, the rat and flea have stood wrongly accused as the agents of transmission and historians and scientists have uncritically imposed the epidemiology of modern plague on the past. Unshackled from this misconception, The Black Death Transformed turns to its subject afresh, using sources spread across a huge geographical tract, from Lisbon to Uzbekistan, Sicily to Scotland: more than 40,000 death documents (from last wills and testaments to the earliest surviving burial records), over 400 chronicles, 250 plague tracts, 50 saints' lives, merchant letters, and much more. These sources confirm the terror of the medieval plague, the rapidity of its spread (unlike modern plague), and the utter despondency left in the wake of its first strike. But they also point to significant differences between medieval and modern plague, none more significant than the ability of humans to acquire natural immunity to the former but not the latter.
Politicians have talked endlessly about the seismic economic and social impacts of the recent financial crisis, but many continue to ignore its disastrous effects on human healthand have even exacerbated them, by adopting harsh austerity measures and cutting key social programs at a time when constituents need them most. The result, as pioneering public health experts David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu reveal in this provocative book, is that many countries have turned their recessions into veritable epidemics, ruining or extinguishing thousands of lives in a misguided attempt to balance budgets and shore up financial markets. Yet sound alternative policies could instead help improve economies and protect public health at the same time.
In "The Body Economic," Stuckler and Basu mine data from around the globe and throughout history to show how government policy becomes a matter of life and death during financial crises. In a series of historical case studies stretching from 1930s America, to Russia and Indonesia in the 1990s, to present-day Greece, Britain, Spain, and the U.S., Stuckler and Basu reveal that governmental mismanagement of financial strife has resulted in a grim array of human tragedies, from suicides to HIV infections. Yet people can and do stay healthy, and even get healthier, during downturns. During the Great Depression, U.S. deaths actually plummeted, and today Iceland, Norway, and Japan are happier and healthier than ever, proof that public wellbeing need not be sacrificed for fiscal health.
Full of shocking and counterintuitive revelations and bold policy recommendations, "The Body Economic" offers an alternative to austerityone that will prevent widespread suffering, both now and in the future.
Praise for Small's earlier work on Nightingale: 'Hugh Small, in a masterly piece of historical detective work, convincingly demonstrates what all previous historians and biographers have missed . . . This is a compelling psychological portrait of a very eminent (and complex) Victorian.'
James Le Fanu, Daily Telegraph
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) is best known as a reformer of hospital nursing during and after the Crimean War, but many feel that her nursing reputation has been overstated.
A Brief History of Florence Nightingale tells the story of the sanitary disaster in her wartime hospital and why the government covered it up against her wishes. After the war she worked to put the lessons of the tragedy to good use to reduce the very high mortality from epidemic disease in the civilian population at home. She did this by persuading Parliament in 1872 to pass laws which required landlords to improve sanitation in working-class homes, and to give local authorities rather than central government the power to enforce the laws. Life expectancy increased dramatically as a result, and it was this peacetime civilian public health reform rather than her wartime hospital nursing record that established Nightingale's reputation in her lifetime.
After her death the wartime image became popular again as a means of recruiting hospital nurses and her other achievements were almost forgotten. Today, with nursing's new emphasis on 'primary' care and prevention outside hospitals, Nightingale's focus on public health achievements makes her an increasingly relevant figure.
With the exception of the United States, all developed nations provide their citizens with quality, affordable health care. And, despite its having expanded access through such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and the Affordable Care Act, nearly 20 million Americans still do not have health insurance. Worse, efforts by the Republican Party to dismantle the ACA and increases in premiums could leave millions more without the financial means to afford treatment when needed. Countries that guarantee health coverage to all their citizens have done so recognizing the health of the nation is dependent on the health of their people. This has not occurred in the United States, not only because powerful forces have mounted a vast campaign against it, but also because no plan with clear solutions and guidelines has yet emerged. Starting from the premise that health care is a societal responsibility, David Colton's The Case for Universal Health Care contends that universal health care should not only be guaranteed by the government, it should be organized and administered by a federal agency and funded through a new, health care transaction tax. This will ensure that the national health care program is focused on quality and is fiscally sustainable for current and future generations of Americans, ridding it from cost over-runs and service denials due to the search for profitability. Colton provides a clear understanding of each facet of the present, flawed health care system: how it is structured and organized; how we pay for health care; what factors influence access, quality, and affordability; and contrasts it with approaches taken by countries providing universal coverage. Thus prepared, the reader is taken through an in depth explanation of Colton's proposed alternative approach to universal health care, including a description of how an American national health care program would be organized, what treatments would be covered, and how it would be funded.The role of quality improvement, utilization review, and evidence-based medicine in controlling costs is examined as is the economic and moral case for universal coverage. The cost of providing care in the United States will soon be unsustainable. It surely makes sense to consider an option that ensures health care is accessible to all its citizens and is fully funded regardless of vicissitudes in the national economy. This book is a must read for all concerned.
Perhaps no other advancement of public health has been as significant. Yet, few know the intriguing story of a simple idea-disinfecting public water systems with chlorine-that in just 100 years has saved more lives than any other single health development in human history.At the turn of the 20th century, most scientists and doctors called the addition of chloride of lime, a poisonous chemical, to public water supplies not only a preposterous idea but also an illegal act - until a courageous physician, Dr. John L. Leal, working with George W. Fuller, the era's greatest sanitary engineer, proved it could be done safely and effectively on a large scale. This is the first book to tell the incredible true story of the first use of chlorine to disinfect a city water supply, in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1908. This important book also corrects misinformation long-held in the historical record about who was responsible for this momentous event, giving overdue recognition to the true hero of the story-an unflagging champion of public health, Dr. John L. Leal.
How should we understand the fear and fascination elicited by the accounts of communicable disease outbreaks that proliferated, following the emergence of HIV, in scientific publications and the mainstream media? The repetition of particular characters, images, and story lines-of Patients Zero and superspreaders, hot zones and tenacious microbes-produced a formulaic narrative as they circulated through the media and were amplified in popular fiction and film. The "outbreak narrative" begins with the identification of an emerging infection, follows it through the global networks of contact and contagion, and ends with the epidemiological work that contains it. Priscilla Wald argues that we need to understand the appeal and persistence of the outbreak narrative because the stories we tell about disease emergence have consequences. As they disseminate information, they affect survival rates and contagion routes. They upset economies. They promote or mitigate the stigmatizing of individuals, groups, locales, behaviors, and lifestyles.
Wald traces how changing ideas about disease emergence and social interaction coalesced in the outbreak narrative. She returns to the early years of microbiology-to the identification of microbes and "Typhoid Mary," the first known healthy human carrier of typhoid in the United States-to highlight the intertwined production of sociological theories of group formation ("social contagion") and medical theories of bacteriological infection at the turn of the twentieth century. Following the evolution of these ideas, Wald shows how they were affected by-or reflected in-the advent of virology, Cold War ideas about "alien" infiltration, science-fiction stories of brainwashing and body snatchers, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Contagious is a cautionary tale about how the stories we tell circumscribe our thinking about global health and human interactions as the world imagines-or refuses to imagine-the next Great Plague.
Growing up in middle-class middle America, Sonya Huber viewed health care as did most of her peers: as an inconvenience or not at all. There were braces and cavities, medications and stitches, the family doctor and the local dentist. Finding herself without health insurance after college graduation, she didn't worry. It was a temporary problem. Thirteen years and twenty-three jobs later, her view of the matter was quite different. Huber's irreverent and affecting memoir of navigating the nation's health-care system brings an awful and necessary dose of reality to the political debates and propaganda surrounding health-care reform. "I look like any other upwardly mobile hipster," Huber says. "I carry a messenger bag, a few master's degrees, and a toddler raised on organic milk." What's not evident, however, is that she is a veteran of Medicaid and WIC, the federal government's supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. In Cover Me, Huber tells a story that is at once all too familiar and rarely told: of being pushed to the edge by worry; of the adamant belief that better care was out there; of taking one mind-numbing job after another in pursuit of health insurance, only to find herself scrounging through the trash heap of our nation's health-care system for tips and tricks that might mean the difference between life and death. Sonya Huber teaches creative writing in the low-residency MFA program at Ashland University and at Georgia Southern University. She is the author of Opa Nobody (Nebraska 2008) as well as multiple essays that have appeared in publications such as Fourth Genre, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Washington Post Magazine.