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Plagues and Peoples (Anglais) Broché – 11 octobre 1977

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Before fully human populations evolved, we must suppose that like other animals our ancestors fitted into an elaborate, self-regulating ecological balance. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index
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95 internautes sur 97 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Mankind - the Parasite and the Host 7 janvier 2002
Par Gerry Fahrenthold - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Plagues and Peoples is an informative and very readable summary of the relationship between mankind and disease. The author consistently views disease as a parasite and describes the history of plagues in terms of a parasite interacting with a host population. The parasite and the host interact and, over time, reach an equilibrium within the population that allows the both the parasite and the host to survive.
The most interesting feature of the book is his portrayal of mankind not only as a host, but also as a parasite himself. He uses the term macroparasite to describe human institutions and phenomena that also drain energy and resources from producers. For example, very high taxes or rents, Medieval labor laws and practices, war, and forced migration all drain communities and nations as surely as disease. He provides excellent, while still brief, commentary on the interaction between microparasites and macroparasites and the resultant depopulation of certain areas during certain periods. One might argue that this is not a newly observed correlation, but it has certainly never been explained as clearly and succintly as it is done here.
McNeill covers a range of topics. There is, of course, discussion of the plague and mankinds response to it. There us also commentary on leprosy. Why for example, was leprosy, so common in Western Europe and the Middle East in biblical times, to dissapear in the Middle Ages. ( The answer is not what you think. ) Did syphillis originate in the Americas ? If so it may have been the Aztecs' revenge on the conquistadors. Why are there childhood diseases ?
McNeill's arguements are somtimes intuitive and are, in some cases, based on limited data, especially when he examines the history of disease in Asia and India. However, he is careful to couch his observations in limited terms and clearly points out the limitations of the data. I found this to be a refreshing break from, for example, Guns, Germs and Steel, where the author used very limited data to draw absolute conclusions.
The new introduction ( the book was first publised in 1986 )has an alternate viewpoint on AIDS. He argues that, at the moment, AIDS as an epidemic does not rank among the great killers of mankind such as the plague. He draws some interesting parallels between the current AIDS epidemic and the historical spread of syphillis. I am not sure if I agree with his position, but it was interesting to hear something other than the usual end of the world scenario that often comes out of discussions of AIDS.
43 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Will change the way you look at the world 16 octobre 2003
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is one of those handful of books that will change the way you look at our world. History will never seem quite the same when you finish.
Several earlier reviewers have done a great job of summarizing and analyzing the book. It is unfortunate that this book was given as a high school assignment, and then the students were asked to review it on Amazon. Is it any wonder they gave it 2 or 3 stars, and said it was difficult to understand? Most 15-year-olds do not have the background to fully appreciate this type of work, and unfortunately their reviews skew the book's rating.
43 internautes sur 46 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
panoramic view of history 25 juin 2003
Par R. M. Williams - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
History can be written from two major vantage points. From the top of a mountain, with broad brush strokes, showing the major streams and landmarks, the BIG picture. Spenser and Toynbee are such historians, so is this book. The other view is from the trenches, the pieces, the small connections that we find so fascinating and absorbing. I believe that the big picture view of this book is a result of how it came into being as an elaboration of a single constellation of ideas that the author discovered while working on _The Rise of the West_, he found they interesting and continued to build the structure around these ideas in this book.
The book is about a collection of related ideas:
Parasitism--as he defines two types macro and micro.
Micro is the form we are familiar with as disease, the times viruses, bacteria, protozoan begin to use us as their energy and food source, to our consternation. He further defines two flavors: epidemic and endemic. Epidemic is the form in bubonic plague that swept Europe for 500 years at regular intervals. endemic is the idea of a parasitic form like the liver flukes that effect irrigated agriculture the world over, or like the civilized childhood diseases that effect the body politic like measles, mumps, smallpox.
Macroparasitism is this author's contribution to the discussion, unique to him as far as i know. Those other human's that prey on the weaker, less organized, less mobile etc. Epidemic macro are the Mongols(which are the topic of what i think is the best chapter in the book) or those horseman like in the movie the "Seventh Samari" who sweep out of the steppes or mountains to seize the harvest. Endemic macro are the priests, kings, emperors, tax farmers, etc who take the hard earned food from the producers without adequate recompense.
Using these ideas he ventures to paint those broad strokes, those vistas in history to show how the major currents, the big pieces fit. To this end the book is very well done, always absorbing, always enough detail to support but not to overwhelm the reader. Yet pithy and curiosity arousing enough to drive you to look into his sources, the real mark of good history.
I was pleased enough to get _Rise of the West_ and will start it next.
thanks for reading the review, i hope you get as much out of the book as did i.
richard williams
18 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An epidemiological McCluhan 16 avril 1998
Par revtim@tivoli.com - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
If you've been enjoying the rash of viral/epidemiological titles such as "Hot Zone", "The Coming Plague" or "Deadly Feasts", you'll find a real gem in "Plagues and Peoples". William McNeill, an author with impeccable credentials, is IMHO, the Marshall McCluhan of epidemiological biology. Like McCluhan, he published this work decades before the subject matter became mainstream. He also comes at the topics he investigates with a fresh and brain-stretching approach.
McNeill presents a history of mankind where every civilization is surrounded by a disease 'gradient'. These gradients interact with one another as one of the significant factors in inter-cultural dominance and expansion. The conquest of the New World takes on a new look as McNeill describes the impact of the European disease gradient on a defenseless North America. He contrasts this with the impact of the African disease gradient on Europeans.
Some of McNeills ideas, such as his analogies between micro-parasites (diseases, bugs, etc.) and macro-parasites (governments, barbarians, raiders, etc.) are still fresh and fascinating. Consider his idea that we accept a government as a low-level parasite so that we minimize the impact of rogue parasites like raiders and such in the same way we allow our bodies to be colonized by benign parasites like E.Coli so that we have fewer niches available to rouge germs like staph and strep. This book is filled with exciting ideas like this.
All in all, the book is very readable, adds greatly to any view of history and creates an excellent foundation for the recent titles in this area.
22 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
GREAT BOOK 22 janvier 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I read this book for a history class and loved it. The thesis was interesting, the ideas well-supported, and the examples fascinating. McNeill writes clearly, includes the perfect amount of detail and factual support, and avoids esotericism. His claims, like components of a mathematic or scientific theory, complement one another in a convincing and cohesive fashion such that by the end of the book, one cannot help but be at least partially convinced of the important relationship between paracitism and human civilization throughout history. Plagues and Peoples is truly legitimate, fascinating and innovative. For those who have any interest in history, anthropology, sociology, biology, or a plethora of other fields, as well as for any who merely appreciate interesting analytical thought and are looking for a good read, this book is really one you won't want to miss.
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