Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS

ISBN : 9780198819660

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.
656 ページ
156 x 234 mm

By investigating thousands of descriptions of epidemics reaching back before the fifth-century-BCE Plague of Athens to the distrust and violence that erupted with Ebola in 2014, Epidemics challenges a dominant hypothesis in the study of epidemics, that invariably across time and space, epidemics provoked hatred, blaming of the 'other', and victimizing bearers of epidemic diseases, particularly when diseases were mysterious, without known cures or preventive measures, as with AIDS during the last two decades of the twentieth century. However, scholars and public intellectuals, especially post-AIDS, have missed a fundamental aspect of the history of epidemics. Instead of sparking hatred and blame, this study traces epidemics' socio-psychological consequences across time and discovers a radically different picture: that epidemic diseases have more often unified societies across class, race, ethnicity, and religion, spurring self-sacrifice and compassion.


Introduction: Hate, Politics, and Compassion
Part One: Antiquity and the Middle Ages
1 Epidemics in Antiquity: The Moral Universe and Natural Causes
2 Ancient Epidemics: What the Oracles Had To Say
3 Black Death Persecution and Abandonment
4 Mechanisms for Unity: Saints and Plagues
Part Two: Early Modernity
5 Syphilis: Naming and Blaming?
6 Plague Spreaders
Part Three: Modernity: Epidemics of Hate
7 Cholera's First European Tour: The Story in the British Isles
8 Cholera on the Continent and in America
9 Cholera Violence: An Italian Story in Comparative Perspective
10 Cholera: A Comparative History of Disturbance
11 Smallpox Cruelty: The Case of North America
12 Smallpox and Collective Violence
13 Smallpox Violence in Victorian Britain
Part IV: Modernity: Plagues of Politics
14 Plague since 1894: India
15 Plague Beyond India
16 Myths of Plague
Part V: Modernity: Plagues of Compassion
17 Yellow Fever: Stories from Philadelphia and Memphis
18 Yellow Fever: The Broader Picture
19 The Great Influenza: A Forgotten Pandemic?
20 Quarantine and Blame
21 A Pandemic of Compassion
22 Comparative Vistas (I): The Great Influenza
23 Comparative Vistas (II): Beyond the Battlefields
24 Conclusion
25 Epilogue. HIV/AIDS: An Epidemic of Hate, Compassion, and Politics
Bibliography and Appendix of Newspapers


Samuel K. Cohn, Jr. is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Over the past sixteen years, he has focused on the history of popular unrest in late medieval and early modern Europe and on the history of disease and medicine. Cohn's latest two books are Popular Protest in Late Medieval English Towns (2013) and Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the End of the Renaissance (OUP, 2010).