n Historia - Small book, big history
Plague, Pox and Pandemics: A Jacana Pocket History of Epidemics in South Africa, Howard Phillips : book review

Volume 59, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0018-229X



This review begins with two confessions: firstly, asking me to review was something of an easy pick since, having taught a module "Epidemics and Social Change in Historical Perspective" for over a decade, I have long been a convert to the premise of and arguments put forward in this book. Secondly, reading it several times has not assuaged the chronic case of professional jealousy which it has induced in me, for Phillips has given us a powerful, punchy and poignant text that exposes some of the key forces shaping our region's history over the last several centuries. Indeed, taking a "holistic, social history of disease perspective ... this book ... places epidemics firmly within the country's past and treats them as something not extraneous to the mainstream of its history" (pp 9 10). It is therefore not only a history of epidemics in South Africa; it is a history of South Africa in the modern world.

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