Disease & History
In 1969 Frederick F. Cartwright embarked on the researching and writing of Disease and History. He was interested in such questions as: was malaria more catastrophic for the Roman Empire than the attacks of the Goths and Vandals? Did the Black Death hasten the end of feudal society? Was syphilis responsible for turning the initially benevolent reign of Ivan the Terrible into a bloodthirsty tyranny? Was Cortez' most powerful ally in his defeat of the Aztecs the diseases the Spaniards imported into Mexico? Did Queen Victoria herself, by transmitting haemophilia to her descendents, contribute to the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917?
Christopher Long was invited to help with the research for this work and through much of 1969 spent much time combing the contents of the King's College Hospital Medical School.
by Frederick F. Cartwright
in collaboration with Michael D. Biddis
ISBN 0 246 10537 2
First published 1972 by Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd,
3 Upper James Street, London W1R 4BP
Printed in Great Britain by Northumberland Press Limited, Gateshead
The impact of disease on history has probably been underestimated by conventional historians; and this book sets out to show how disease (and the conquest of disease) has in fact frequently changed the course of history, both in its effects on peoples and on individuals.
Many intriguing questions are raised in this new approach to history: was malaria more catastrophic for the Roman Empire than the attacks of the Goths and Vandals? Did the Black Death hasten the end of feudal society? Was syphilis responsible for turning the initially benevolent reign of Ivan the Terrible into a bloodthirsty tyranny? Was Cortez' most powerful ally in his defeat of the Aztecs the diseases the Spaniards imported into Mexico? Did Queen Victoria herself, by transmitting haemophilia to her descendents, contribute to the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917?
Dr Cartwright, Head of the Department of the History of Medicine at King's College Hospital, London, has collaborated with Michael Biddis, a professional historian at Downing College, Cambridge, to produce this important and fascinating book, which should be of equal interest to students of history and students of medicine.
This book does not pretend to be an exhaustive account of the many ways in which disease has influenced the course of history. It is, in some measure, experimental for it became apparent quite early in the preparation of the manuscript that the subject could be covered only in a series of volumes. this has necessarily entailed selection and, all too often, the rejection of much interesting material. Tuberculosis, for instance, is of great historical importance but the effects have been too widespread to be linked with a single incident or person.
The ultimate decision whether to include or reject has been mine, and I must also accept full responsibility for the final text, but I am fortunate in having enjoyed the collaboration of a professional historian. Dr Michael Biddis, Fellow and Director of Studies in History at Downing College, Cambridge, [and Cartwright's son-in-law] has assiduously drawn my attention to sources of information, has discussed each chapter with me before and during the writing, and has read the final version. Not least of his services has been to restrain me when I, perhaps inevitably, have fallen into the error of overstressing the effect which disease has exerted upon a historical event.
I have also received much help from my friends. Mr Christopher Long spent many hours of library research during the early stages and provided me with a large amount of useful material, for which I am very grateful. As always, my colleagues at King's College Hospital have patiently answered my innumerable questions and generously given me the benefit of their specialised knowledge. Here I must particularly thank Dr D. W. Liddell, Dr C. G. McKerron, Dr S. Nevin and Dr Philip Hugh-Jones, who have read chapters and advised me upon the content. The Library Staff of King's College Hospital Medical School have, it is hardly necessary to add, been most generous with help and advice. Nor must I omit Mr Hugh Rawson of Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, and Mr Alan Brooke of Rupert Hart-Davis, London, who have not only criticised and edited the text but have supplied much information.
After some consideration it has been decided to omit references. But, of course, a great number of books have been consulted. The major debts are acknowledged in the bibliographical guide to further reading. This has been expanded to include works that deal with either the medical or the historical aspects of certain subjects more fully than the necessarily restricted space of the present volume will allow.
F. F. Cartwright
Department of the History of Medicine
King's College Hospital
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