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Armies of Pestilence:

The Impact of Disease on History

By R.S. Bray

Armies of Pestilence

Armies of Pestilence:

The Impact of Disease on History

By R.S. Bray

An absorbing and accessible account of the effects of disease and pandemics on human history, from the ancient to the modern world.

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The influence that disease has had on history has often been hidden behind the more 'glorious' exploits of individuals and monarchs. In Armies of Pestilence R.S. Bray offers a fresh contribution to the impact that illnesses have had on world history.

The periods discussed span from the Biblical accounts of epidemics, through the Justinian plague (what was that deadly disease that has kept scientists in contention right through to the present day?), to the miscalculated 1976 influenza epidemic from which the American government took a long time to recover. Dr. Bray covers the Plague (the scourge of medieval Europe), malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, typhus and cholera.

The author offers a comprehensive evaluation of many other works, both scientific and historical, which provide a vast basis for research on this subject. His vigorous style and timely injections of humour make this an absorbing and accessible book.

List of Maps

1. Early Civilisations
2. Rome
3. Plague – Justinian's Plague (part 1)
4. Plague – Justinian's Plague (part 2)
5. Plague – Justinian's Plague (part 3)
6. Plague – The Black Death (part 1)
7. Plague – The Black Death (part 2)
8. Plague – The Black Death (part 3)
9. Plague – The Bombay Plague
10. Malaria (part 1)
11. Malaria (part 2)
12. Malaria (part 3)
13. Yellow Fever
14. Smallpox (part 1)
15. Smallpox (part 2)
16. Smallpox (part 3)
17. Typhus (part 1)
18. Typhus (part 2)
19. Cholera (part 1)
20. Cholera (part 2)
21. Cholera (part 3)
22. Cholera (part 4)
23. Influenza (part 1)
24. Influenza (part 2)


R.S. Bray took his BSc at the University of Adelaide and went on to gain two doctorates from the University of London. He has lectured around the world and published many scientific articles. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Protozoologists and the British Society of Parasitology, and former Vice-President of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. His work with the Liberian Institute of the American Foundation for Tropical Medicine gained him the Award of Knight Great Band of the Order of African Redemption.

A very pleasant surprise. Bray is both judicious and modest in his approach ... and displays a genuine historical sense ... What distinguishes it from many other offerings is the author's willingness to acknowledge how difficult it is to diagnose diseases in the past ... The discussion of plague is particularly interesting in the latter respect and could be read to advantage by anyone interested in the question of its dramatic appearance and equally mysterious disappearance ... The question of what impact disease had on politics and society in the past is notoriously beset with traps for the unwary, and here too Bray displays a commendable caution ... Can be recommended to the interested layman and – with its useful bibliography – to first year undergraduates. Medical History
... this demonstration of Bray's eclectic scholarship is particularly opportune ... while the intention is to alert historians to the effect of disease on history, the account is equally relevant to planners of the future ... in language which should not inhibit the most science-blind reader. The work of each of the historians or other commentators is critically dissected and analysed ... An astonishing variety of authors has been covered; indeed, the bibliography makes almost as interesting reading as the text itself. Innumerable little snippets ... add a touch of levity here and there. This fascinating, though at times gruesome account ... provides innumerable topics for ... debate, and is essential reading for budding historians of whatever branch or period. In addition, it is a readable, thorough account of the history of pestilence appropriate for those with more general interests. Annals of Tropical Medicine & Parasitology