Review: Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World
Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A highly accessible account of how past epidemics have changed human history, this book is a must-read if you’re at all curious about the development of medicine, public health or diseases.

Sherman has a great way of explaining complex ideas in an entry-level way which puts this book miles ahead of similar ones in the same genre as he guides you through how diseases have impacted on development and both the pros and cons that the disease has brought with it in history.
Sherman also provides explanations on how these twelve diseases have been portrayed in different cultures and the effect this then had on the legacy of the disease. When read alongside C. Rosenberg’s article, ‘What is an Epidemic?’, this book is a great foundation to start from when learning about what epidemics are and was invaluable to a university module I studied on that topic.

The book could’ve benefitted with some primary sources such as images and newspapers to liven it up a little and break up the dense chunks of texts while still keeping on topic but it is written in such a concise style that this is only a minor point.

All in all, a very enlightening read that will be of interest to students of most disciplines due to the sheer reach and impact of the diseases covered. I only wish that I’d read it far sooner!

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