Print ISBN: 978-1-64265-733-3
# of Pages: 800
# of Volumes: 2
Print List Price: $295
e-ISBN: 978-1-64265-734-0
eBook User Price: $295
Free Online Access
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Defining Documents in World History: Pandemics, Plagues & Public Health

Editor: Michael Shally-Jensen, PhD
October 2020

This two-volume set includes content on the Black Death, smallpox, the plague,  malaria, typhoid, polio, SARS, AIDS, COVID-19, and others.

Plagues and pandemics are a part of global history, from the biblical “plague of locusts” to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dealing with unchecked diseases and disasters has given rise to great human suffering and loss of life, but it has also played a significant role in shaping our societies. Advances in public health, medicine, scientific research, and even the arts have often been inspired by or required of those who have survived. 

Defining Documents in World History: Pandemics, Plagues & Public Health offers in-depth analysis of sixty documents, including book excerpts, speeches, political debates, testimony, court rulings, legal texts, legislative acts, essays, newspaper and magazine articles, and interviews. These selections trace the role that pandemics and plagues have played in history, from the 5th century BCE to today. The material is divided into five sections that begin with a brief summary of important events and documents featured:

  • Sickness Unto Death in Early Times begins with an excerpt from Athenian historian and philosopher Thucydides’ analysis of the Athenian plague and ends with an account of the yellow fever epidemic of the late 1700’s by eighteenth century physician Benjamin Rush.
  • Disease in the Industrial Era includes such important writing as a Report on the Typhus Epidemic in Upper Silesia, a discussion of the National Quarantine Act and the Polio Vaccine Situation, and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 among others.
  • Disease in the Modern Era offers documents such as Retraction of Lancet Paper on MMR Vaccine and Autism, Reports Concerning the H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic, and Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence on the Formation of the Coronavirus Task Force.
  • Scourges of War includes the Effects of Shell Shock, An Army Physician on the 1918 Flu Pandemic, and The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Nature of the Atomic Explosion.
  • Substance Abuse and Public Health explores the Harrison Narcotic Act, the Controlled Substances Act, Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” Message to the Nation, and Statement and News Release regarding Purdue OxyContin Case.

Each Historical Document is supported by a critical essay, written by historians and teachers, that includes a Summary Overview, Defining Moment, About the Author, Document Analysis, and Essential Themes. An important feature of each essay is a close reading of the primary source that develops broader themes, such as the author’s rhetorical purpose, social or class position, point of view, and other relevant issues. Each essay also includes a section entitled Bibliography and Additional Reading that provides suggestions for further readings and research.

View a Full List of Defining Document Titles