Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues (Hardcover)
A sweeping examination of how germs have played a starring role in the most significant transformations in history, from the rise of Homo sapiens to the creation of world religions and the birth of capitalism. According to the accepted narrative of progress, humans have thrived thanks to their brains and brawn, to actions undertaken individually and collectively that have changed the arc of history. In this revelatory book, sociologist and public health professor Jonathan Kennedy argues that the peddlers of the exceptionalism myth massively overestimate the role that reason plays in social change. Instead, it is the humble microbe that wins wars and topples empires. Drawing on the latest research in genetics, economics, sociology, and anthropology, Pathogenesis explores eight outbreaks of infectious disease that made the modern world. Take the rise of Christianity. When a wave of deadly pandemics swept through the Roman Empire in the third century, there were only a small number of Christian communities--but they did a much better job tending to the sick. Their more communal approach saved thousands of lives, and helped turn this tiny, obscure sect into one of the world's great religions. Bacteria and viruses were also responsible for the demise of the Neanderthals, the growth of Islam, the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the devastation wrought by European colonialism, and the rise of the United States from an imperial backwater to a global superpower. By centering disease in his wide-ranging, spectacularly illustrated history of humankind, Kennedy challenges our most fundamental assumptions about our collective past--and urges us to view our current moment as another disease-driven inflection point that could change the course of history. Provocative and brimming with insight, Pathogenesis transforms our understanding of the human story.
JONATHAN KENNEDY is Senior Lecturer and Director of Global Public Health programmes at Barts and the London Medical School. He has appeared on the "World Tonight" talking about the government's response to COVID-19 and has been quoted in a range of British newspapers on issues related to the link between politics and public health, including the Economist, the Guardian, The Times, the Telegraph, Independent, and Daily Mail. Kennedy writes op-eds in the Guardian, blogs for the London Review of Books and has published opinion pieces in El Pais. He has a PhD in sociology from the University of Cambridge.