The History of the World in 100 Pandemics, Plagues and Epidemics written by Paul Chrystal and published by Pen & Sword Books – £20.00 – Hardback – Pages 416

This revelatory book charts and explains the impact and consequences of successive pandemics, plagues and epidemics on the course of world history – all through the lens of today’s ongoing global experience of COVID-19. Ranging from prehistory to the present day, it first defines what constitutes a pandemic or epidemic then looks at 20 guilty diseases: including cholera, influenza, bubonic plague, leprosy, measles, smallpox, malaria, AIDS, MERS, SARS, Zika, Ebola and, of course, COVID-19. Some less well-known, but equally significant and deadly contagions such as Legionnaires’ Disease, psittacosis, polio, the Sweat, and dancing plague, are also covered.

The book is ordered chronologically. Each chapter features an explanation and description of epidemiology, sources and vectors, morbidity, mortality, governmental response and reaction, societal response and impact as well as psychological issues where known – and the political, legal and scientific consequences it had or has for each locus at a local and international level. In short – the book explains how each of the events both made and influenced subsequent history in its own way, particularly how each shaped future medical and scientific research and vaccine development programmes. It also examines myths about infectious diseases, the role of the media and social media. Perhaps most importantly, Paul Chrystal asks what lessons have been learnt. Will we be better prepared next time? Because, if one thing is sure, there is going to be a ‘next time’.

This book is basically a book of 64 chapters with each chapter concentrating on a pandemic, plague or epidemic. The chapters date right back to the Neolithic Age, The Classical Period and the Byzantium Age through to the Middle Ages and then onto the present day with 21st century and Covid-19. Now then the chapters are quite interesting and it does seem the world has been suffering from some sort of pandemic or plague constantly, somewhere in the world all through time. The chapters were good and informative but if you wanted to do more research on a particular pandemic, you would have to do more research. I quite enjoyed the last chapter about Covid-19, I suppose because that pandemic is happening as we speak and the author takes a common-sense view of things and recommendations that the world really needs to follow. What I would conclude from this book is that it is very good indeed and informative and certainly gives you all the basics and I enjoyed some of the conclusions that have come from the author Paul Chrystal. I would give the book 5 stars because it’s job, it was well written and was to give an overview and detail, if you want to know more about particular pandemics then you would have to go into further research. If I ever get to go time travelling, I’m taking some soap and clean water with me.