Plagues and Peoples

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William Hardy McNeill - Plagues and peoples.jpeg

Plagues and Peoples is a book on epidemiological history by William Hardy McNeill published in New York City in 1976. It was a critical and popular success, offering a radically new interpretation of the extraordinary impact of infectious disease on cultures as a means of enemy attack. The book ranges from examining the effects of smallpox in Mexico, the bubonic plague in China, to the typhoid epidemic in Europe.

McNeill divided the book into six chapters and provides a cohesive progression of time that links all the chapters together. The titles of the chapters are as follows: Man the Hunter, Breakthrough to History, Confluence of the Civilized Disease-Pools of Eurasia: 500 B.C. to A.D 1200, The Impact of the Mongol Empire on Shifting Disease Balances(1200-1500), Transoceanic Exchanges(1500-1700), and The Ecological Impact of Medical Science and Organization Since 1700.

McNeill's writing style is one that focuses heavily on the details to ensure that the reader has a thorough knowledge of the subject he presents.

With the onset of AIDS in the early 1980s, a new preface was later added to the book.

Depending on the book print, there could be a detailed Appendix and Notes section.


"A very remarkable and original book...It is rewarding, immensely so, and well worth the effort." - The Washington Post

"He does a commendable job in providing a surprising amount of the details of even sometimes overlooked epidemics and plagues." - Chicago Daily News

"A book of the first importance, a truly revolutionary work." - The New Yorker

"A very good book for people interested in early diseases." - The New Yorker


  • William Hardy McNeill (1998). Plagues and Peoples. Anchor. ISBN 978-0-385-12122-4..

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