Deadly Companions: How Microbes Shaped our History (Oxford Landmark Science)

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Combining tales of devastating epidemics with accessible science and fascinating history, Deadly Companions reveals how closely microbes have evolved with us over the millennia, shaping human civilization through infection, disease, and deadly pandemic. Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, Dorothy Crawford takes us back i Combining tales of devastating epidemics with accessible science and fascinating history, Deadly Companions reveals how closely microbes have evolved with us over the millennia, shaping human civilization through infection, disease, and deadly pandemic.

Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, Dorothy Crawford takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and humanity, offering an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived--such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller--which made us ever more vulnerable to microbe attack. Showing that how we live our lives today--with increased crowding and air travel--puts us once again at risk, Crawford asks whether we might ever conquer microbes completely.

Among the possible answers, one thing becomes clear: Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Deadly Companions , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Feb 04, Nikki rated it liked it Shelves: Originally reviewed for breathesbooks.

Jul 01, John rated it liked it. I was looking for global history books that centered on disease, and this one jumped out at me in the library, mainly because the title and cover art are just terrific.


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I did enjoy it, though I skimmed the last couple of chapters. I'm not sure who I would recommend it to though. It isn't really good academic history. I mean, it isn't bad or anything, but you really only get the general outlines of historical events like the Black Death and the diseases th I was looking for global history books that centered on disease, and this one jumped out at me in the library, mainly because the title and cover art are just terrific.

I mean, it isn't bad or anything, but you really only get the general outlines of historical events like the Black Death and the diseases that arose during the Colombian Exchange. There are better books that are solely about the conquest of Mexico, and the role of yellow fever in the wars of the Caribbean, etc. But Crawford is a professor of microbiology anyway - she's not claiming to be a historian. Since I read a lot of history, I ended up finding the science here a little more enlightening. Crawford gets into the life cycle of the microbes that cause these various diseases, where they come from, when they might have made the jump to humans, how they have evolved over time.

She also includes little life cycle charts sometimes which are fascinating. One of the issues that comes up over and over in environmental history is the way human history progresses in a constant dialogue with the "natural" world, humans changing their environment and the environment then nudging humans into particular paths. People don't make their history just as they please, but within a natural structure that they contributed to constructing. Crawford's treatment of microbes fits well here.

May 07, Tim rated it really liked it Shelves: A straightforward account of the history of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi and how they have impacted human life and society. It was sobering to see how helpless we have been for much of our history in the face of the attacks of these tiny life forms. And the H5N1 virus continues to pose a serious threat. Interesting that even with our tech know-how we don't have a complete picture of how these diseases co-evolved.

Also gets you to thinking about how the human-caused extinction of large prey launched humans away from hunter-gathering to farming and, consequently, the population density necessary for the spread of diseases. Notes 12 Protozoa the first form of animal life. Sep 17, Nahida rated it it was ok. This book gives a general overview of microbes throughout history, and decent explanations of how microbes evolved and spread between humans, starting with early man.

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I did not finish this book, for two reasons: If you're a student like myself or a professional, this book won't teach you anything new - it's This book gives a general overview of microbes throughout history, and decent explanations of how microbes evolved and spread between humans, starting with early man. If you're a student like myself or a professional, this book won't teach you anything new - it's mainly aimed at beginners. One of these is the discovery that the mosquito species 'aedes aegypti' transmits yellow fever - the author gives credit to Walter Reed for its discovery, but in reality it was Dr Carlos Finlay who discovered it.

The author simply writes off Finlay as someone who conducted a failed experiment. Other passages, such as the description of Columbus invading Native American land, and the slave trade, seemed rather insensitive, or to put it, the author didn't acknowledge the faults that Europeans caused when tormenting and enslaving these people, THUS passing on their diseases.

Deadly Companions

There is much more to the spread of microbes, such as social and political factors. My advice - don't waste your time on this. Jul 29, Amber rated it really liked it Shelves: Took me a while to get to this review, but here we go: I'm a historian by vocation, and I've always had an great interest in the idea of disease having its own agency in history. The fact is that without disease, much of history would be vastly different, in so many ways. I have read very specific histories on this subject such as The American Plague: Ecology and War in the Took me a while to get to this review, but here we go: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, , which is a little broader but still deals mainly with the way mosquito-borne illnesses were used by mostly the Spanish to conquer the New World and keep other colonial powers out.

I was interested in this book in order to get a broader overview of lots of different diseases and their impact on human history, and I was not disappointed. Deadly Companions is great for a student official or otherwise of history with a beginning interest in how diseases impacted human history.

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This is really great for those of us who have a slightly-more-than-basic background in science, but aren't exactly CDC-level experts, because it is just ENOUGH science to enhance the historian's understanding of the spread of these diseases, but doesn't go crazy with the medical jargon. Another thing I liked about this book is that it touches on the "modern" status of some of these diseases we associate primarily with the past. For instance, the fact that the Bubonic Plague is still very much alive and well in the western United States, and that several people a year get it.

Luckily, few if any die thanks to antibiotics. I would have liked to see a chapter on antibiotic abuse and resistance, and how that will shape microbes in the not so distant future. But still, MRSA was already a thing, and this topic could have been explored a little more. I suppose, however, that one needs to limit the scope of one's work, or books would get absolutely out of control and unfocused.

So I am slightly splitting hairs here. Overall, I highly recommend if you want a slightly-more-than-general look at microbes and diseases and their impact on our history. This is a great starting point This book is a great jumping off point! Well researched and clearly presented overview of the influence of disease on human history.

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I really like the way Crawford writes. I am reading all of her books and she is now one of my favorite science writers. A quick and enjoyable read, definitely pitched at an audience without too much of a biology background.

The author is a professor of virology, and she does an excellent job presenting the information in an accessible but not dumbed-down way. However, the presentation of history in this book is really problematic. While it's absolutely important to point out that the role of epidemics in history has often been overlooked by traditional histories, her exposition of history goes to the other extrem A quick and enjoyable read, definitely pitched at an audience without too much of a biology background.

While it's absolutely important to point out that the role of epidemics in history has often been overlooked by traditional histories, her exposition of history goes to the other extreme. For example, the fall of the western Roman Empire is discussed almost exclusively in terms of epidemics, with very little mention of social, political, and economic factors.

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