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Contagion: How Commerce Has Spread Disease Hardcover – January 8, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


'Mark Harrison brings unrivalled expertise as a medical historian to his masterly account of how contagion and commerce have marched ahead together over the centuries. He shows that the weapons we use against the spread of infection have grown ever more sophisticated without becoming any more effective. Far from protecting mankind in general, they have often been manipulated to give extra advantage to rich over poor nations. This is genuinely global history, powerful and provocative, and a work of remarkable range and originality.'—Paul Slack, author of From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England
(Paul Slack)

'Mankind has for millennia conveyed trade goods over vast distances, and along with them, deadly pathogens. Understanding the resultant epidemics and, critically, the response to them requires a mastery of pathophysiology,  propulsion technology, and political economy, and Contagion seamlessly synthesizes all three. This compact, compelling volume is essential reading for the concerned citizen of an increasingly connected, interdependent, and vulnerable planet.'—William J. Bernstein, author of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World
(William Bernstein)

'Mark Harrison's fascinating and thoroughly researched study traces the connections between trade and infectious diseases, exploring the diplomatic and political ramifications of quarantine and other measures taken to limit the spread of disease. It shows that such measures could be applied competitively for economic gain, as well as for prevention. A discussion of the impact of globalisation brings the subject entirely up to date. The book provides a complete and satisfying account of a complex series of issues, which have not been tackled so comprehensively before.'—Stephen Porter, author of The Great Plague 
(Stephen Porter)

"A book of impressive range and originality, well researched and well written."—Michael Worboys, co-author of Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Rabies in Britain, 1830–2000
(MIchael Worboys)

“[A] detailed, scholarly examination of the politics of pandemics.”—Kirkus Reviews 
(Kirkus Reviews)

“Compelling.”—Publishers Weekly 
(Publishers Weekly)

“An important book for a wide audience.”—Choice

About the Author

Mark Harrison is professor of the history of medicine and director of the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford. His previous books include Medicine and Victory: British Military Medicine in the Second World War and The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War, for each of which he was awarded the Templer Medal. He lives in Oxford, UK.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300123574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300123579
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Serge J. Van Steenkiste on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mark Harrison clearly articulates the close relationship that trade and contagion have had since the 14th century CE. Mr. Harrison thoroughly analyzes the policies that first nations and then countries have designed and implemented to try to protect themselves against the nefarious effects of diseases on their respective economies and polities. The author does a great job in showing how the modern public health system first emerged in the Western World and subsequently elsewhere. To his credit, Mr. Harrison reminds his audience that the persistent abuse of sanitary measures for economic and political gain is nothing new on the horizon. In summary, Mr. Harrison succeeds in making the inseparable couple of contagion and trade a topic of interest to a wide audience.
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