The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris
With a New Chapter and Updated Epilogue on Coronavirus
A Financial Times Best Health Book of 2019 and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
"Honigsbaum does a superb job covering a century’s worth of pandemics and the fears they invariably unleash." —Howard Markel, MD, PhD, director of the Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan
How can we understand the COVID-19 pandemic? Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing such catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. In The Pandemic Century, a lively account of scares both infamous and less known, medical historian Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. We meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses—and see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions. Now updated with a new chapter and epilogue.
Praise for The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris
Some of the scenes in Mark Honigsbaum’s The Pandemic Century were so vivid they had me drafting movie treatments in my head.… Whether familiar or forgotten, parrot fever or Ebola, he finds striking similarities among them. And those similarities ought to make us worried about the next outbreak. If history is any guide, things may not go well.
— Carl Zimmer - New York Times Book Review
Informed and dramatic.... Honigsbaum is a gifted explainer of medical science—everything you need to know about epidemiology is here—but he can also write like a detective novelist.
— James McConnachie - Sunday Times
Colorful and engaging.... The Pandemic Century could appeal to diverse categories of readers, including epidemiologists, public health workers, students, and anyone interested in understanding why, despite impressive gains in global public health preparedness and advances in disease prevention and control, pandemics continue to surprise and terrify us.
— Nkuchia M. M’ikantha - Emerging Infectious Diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
A masterful tour of the receding horizon of past plagues.... With marked brio and impressive detail.... Honigsbaum elegantly makes the case for better understanding the ecological configurations of disease outbreaks.
— Warwick Anderson - Public Books
An engaging and thoughtful journey through some of the world’s greatest medical and social crises in recent decades. Honigsbaum is a worthy historian and guide to these dramatic reminders of human fallibility.
— David L. Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
— Barbara Kiser - Nature
[A] riveting, vivid history of modern disease outbreaks.… A fascinating account of a deeply important topic—for if the past 100 years have taught us anything, it is that new diseases and viral strains will inevitably beset us, no matter how sophisticated science becomes.
— Robin McKie - Observer
A lively but less than reassuring read for those on exotic travels.
— Anjana Ahuja - Financial Times
Infectious diseases remain among the most urgent health threats we face, but too often are considered something that happens to other people, far away. In our interconnected world, this is no longer true, as Mark Honigsbaum shows. His unique account drives home the human impact of epidemics, and the need for increased preparedness.
— Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust
Fascinating.... From forgotten diseases like Parrot Fever to cases relevant to today’s coronavirus outbreak, such as SARS, The Pandemic Century details a dozen different recent episodes in the history of contagious disease. The chilling conclusion is that so often these outbreaks are of our own making.
— Jeva Lange - The Week