Epidemics and Society

Full Name
Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present

Epidemics and Society is a sweeping exploration of the history of plagues and its impact in human history, from the Black Death to today. It reveals the ways that diseases have not only influenced medical science and publ and publ and public health but also transformed the arts, religion, intellectual history, and warfare. Coincidentally, this book was released in October 2019 right before the coronavirus outbreak. Author Frank Snowden actually caught COVID-19 himself while teaching in Italy.

“Brilliant and sobering.”

Paul Kennedy, Wall Street Journal

"Snowden . . . examines the ways in which disease outbreaks have shaped politics, crushed revolutions, and entrenched racial and economic discrimination. . . . Gigantic in scope, stretching across centuries and continents, Snowden’s account seeks to explain, too, the ways in which social structures have allowed diseases to flourish."

Isaac Chotiner, New Yorker

“[A] wide-ranging study”

Laura Spinney, Nature

"Covering roughly a millennium on about 550 pages is no small task…very readable"

Christoph Gradmann, The Lancet

"Illuminating and instructive, jam-packed with fascinating details. . . . A splendid—and scary—account of a potent and still-present threat to humankind."

Glenn Altschuler, Florida Courier

"A very useful, wide-ranging review of the multiple connections between epidemic disease and historical change and development. . . . A very readable book. Highly recommended. All readers."


"Essential reading for anyone who is concerned about society’s preparedness to meet new microbial challenges and who appreciates the importance of history to develop effective and efficient responses."

Socrates Litsios, author of The Tomorrow of Malaria

“A superb synthesis of a complex and important topic. Snowden brings to the subject a wealth of previous research on disease and brilliantly integrates his work into more general historical concerns. A major achievement.”

William Bynum, author of A Little History of Science

"Professor Snowden provides an authoritative and very readable historical account of several of the major the major infectious diseases epidemics that have afflicted mankind with a focus on their impact on society."

Brian Greenwood, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

"In an era of rapidly emerging diseases, Epidemics and Society reminds us that in framing epidemics we are also, always, refiguring human life and fate in relation to ecology and society."

Warwick Anderson, author of Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines

“A distinctive and very useful contribution to the public understanding of disease."

Mark Harrison, author of Contagion: How Commerce Has Spread Disease and Director, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine