- 21,99 €
Much as we take comfort in the belief that modern medicine and public health tactics can protect us from horrifying contagious diseases, such faith is dangerously unfounded. So demonstrates Mark Harrison in this pathbreaking investigation of the intimate connections between trade and disease throughout modern history. For centuries commerce has been the single most important factor in spreading diseases to different parts of the world, the author shows, and today the same is true. But in today's global world, commodities and germs are circulating with unprecedented speed.
Beginning with the plagues that ravaged Eurasia in the fourteenth century, Harrison charts both the passage of disease and the desperate measures to prevent it. He examines the emergence of public health in the Western world, its subsequent development elsewhere, and a recurring pattern of misappropriation of quarantines, embargoes, and other sanitary measures for political or economic gain—even for use as weapons of war. In concluding chapters the author exposes the weaknesses of today's public health regulations—a set of rules that not only disrupt the global economy but also fail to protect the public from the afflictions of trade-borne disease.
Recent scares relating to food-borne illnesses such as SARS, swine flu, bird flu, and mad cow disease have focused attention on the tension between public safety and global trade, but as Harrison, an Oxford professor of the history of medicine, points out, that has almost always been the case. In his exhaustively researched account, he illuminates the connection between commerce and the spread of disease dating back to the 14th century when the plague traveled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. What followed, through cholera outbreaks and yellow fever epidemics, has been a centuries-old effort to manage the spread of disease through regulation and restrictions, and a history of using these restrictions to gain market dominance. As awareness of how disease spread met public outcry against the inhumanity of quarantines, global trade demanded global solutions, spurring the growth of international regulatory bodies. But as recent violations of World Trade Organization and World Health Organization guidelines during the swine flu scare have evidenced, efforts to manipulate public health policy for economic benefit remain unchanged. While the overabundance of dates and names and a heavy academic tone make for a daunting read, the story is a compelling one.