The Pandemic Century

How have we handled pandemics in the last century?

The pandemic century : one hundred years of panic, hysteria, and hubris

Honigsbaum, Mark. W. W. Norton, 2019
450p index, 9780393254754 $29.95

The Pandemic Century is a fascinating study of how various societies, international organizations, and scientists have responded to global disease threats. His study covers a broad swath of history including the Spanish flu, AIDS, and Zika. Honigsbaum (University College London) argues that human actions disturb ecological equilibriums and thus lead to the spreading of disease. Medical researchers and scientists, he contends, are so beholden to their assumptions that they often fail to successfully identify and devise strategies for dealing with newly discovered pathogens. The range of topics and the approach make this work ideal for students. The book’s emphasis on the environmental and social causes of disease should engender lively classroom discussion. Honigsbaum argues that while great strides have been made in the ability to fight and contain disease, “we should recognize that this knowledge is constantly giving birth to new fears and anxieties.” Honigsbaum concludes that “as the pandemic century draws to a close, we know better than to trust the pronouncements of experts.” The book contains notes, but no bibliography. On the whole, it offers lively coverage of epidemic disease in the 20th century that should appeal to students and specialists alike.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels.
J. Rankin, East Tennessee State University
Subject: Science & Technology – Health Sciences
Choice Issue: Oct 2019