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Book description

Combining recent medical discoveries with historical and geographical scholarship, this is the most comprehensive history of human disease since August Hirsch's monumental Handbook of Geographical and Historical Pathology in 1880. Accessible to laypeople and specialists alike, The Cambridge World History of Human Disease explores the patterns of disease throughout the world as well as the variety of approaches that different medical traditions have used to fight it. The volume traces the concept of disease as medicine developed from an art to a science, then addresses the history of disease in each major world region. The final and largest part offers the history and geography of each significant human disease - both historical and contemporary - from AIDS to yellow fever. A truly interdisciplinary history, it includes contributions from over 160 medical and social scientists from across the globe. Together with The Cambridge World History of Food (2000), The Cambridge World History of Human Disease provides an extraordinary glimpse of what is known about human health as the twenty-first century begins.


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Page 1 of 8

  • Part I - Medicine and Disease: An Overview
  • View abstract
    The foremost representative of classical Greek medicine was Hippocrates whose most famous works was the treatise Airs, Waters, and Places, an early primer on environmental medicine. In western Europe, monks played an important role in Christian healing as well as in the collection and preservation of medical manuscripts. As the Islamic Empire gradually expanded, a comprehensive body of Greco-Roman medical doctrine was adopted together with an extensive Persian and Hindu drug lore. The early-sixteenth-century findings of Andreas Vesalius of Padua, based on meticulous and systematic dissections that established the foundations of modern anatomy in the West, contradicted Galen's descriptions. This chapter talks about Renè Descartes's mechanical theory, and William Harvey's experimental discovery of the blood circulation. The French medical revolution was ushered in by an important change in approach. With the existence of microscopic germs and some of their actions firmly established, researchers such as Pasteur and the German physician Robert Koch began to study specific diseases.
  • I.2 - History of Chinese Medicine
    pp 20-27
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    The Ma-wang-tui manuscripts, the Huang-ti neiching, the Nan-ching, and the Shen-nung pen-ts'ao ching are the main sources for current understanding of the early developmental phase of Chinese medicine. The history of leprosy in Chinese medicine is one example of the persistence of ontological thoughts of Chinese medical history. Closely linked to the ontological perspective of Chinese medicine is a functional view that is recorded in medical literature beginning with Han dynasty sources. The most impressive mode of treatment recorded in detail in the Ma-wang-tui scripts is drug therapy. After the emergence of Chinese medicine, a dichotomy prevailed between two major currents. One was the so-called medicine of systematic correspondence; the other was pragmatic drug therapy. The oldest available text today on women's diseases and obstetrics is the Fu-jen liang fang. If the Han dynasty was marked by the initial development of Chinese medicine, the Song-Chin-Yuan period was the second most dynamic formative-period in the history of Chinese medicine.
  • I.3 - Islamic and Indian Medicine
    pp 27-35
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    This chapter discusses the origins and the major components of the Islamic and Indian medicine traditions and compares and contrasts their institutional responses to the challenges of modern times. Islamic medicine is based largely on the Greek medical knowledge of later antiquity and is more properly called Greco-Islamic or Galenic-Islamic medicine, reflecting the influence of Galen. According to the Greco-Islamic medical theories, diseases were caused by imbalances of the four humors of the body: hot, cold, moist, and dry. The physicians (hakims) of the Islamic Middle Ages, Manfred Ullmann observes, were not interested in discovering new knowledge, but rather in developing and commenting on the natural truths learned from the ancients. Islamic also practices Prophetic medicine and Astrological medicine. Indian medicine, such as Ayurvedic medicine, Yunani medicine, homeopathic medicine and folk medicine, is a medical tradition distinct from either Greek or Islamic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine has three humors, wind, bile, and phlegm, which govern health and regulate bodily functions.
  • I.4 - Disease, Human Migration, and History
    pp 35-42
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    The people in Middle East were dependent on those in the surrounding countryside for food supplies; any depletion of those supplies, because of drought or other natural disaster, spelled catastrophe for the urban dwellers. In the late second century AD both Rome and China were probably overwhelmed by pestilence. It is easy, in light of the historical record, to believe that migration-caused health disasters are a thing of the past. There are, after all, few if any hermetically remote populations left on earth; and from Rome and China in the second century AD to the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as parts of South America in the twentieth century, virgin-soil conditions were the seedbeds of the great disease holocausts.
  • Part II - Changing Concepts of Health and Disease
  • View abstract
    This chapter concentrates on ideas of physical health and disease, which is not to minimize the importance of psychiatric disease, but rather to admit that concepts of mental health and illness, although sharing most of the definitional difficulties of physical health and disease, are even more difficult to handle. Granted that cultural, social, and individual considerations contribute to the expression of diseases in society, people may not overlook the importance of the biological aspects unique to diseases. A current example is the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The period of time between infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the body's development of a testable antibody response can be as long as a year. Hippocratism is cherished today because it is more congenial to modern medicine than the other competing systems of the time. After 1830s, neurologists began classifying diseases as organic and functional, the latter reserved for conditions in which current technology could not demonstrate structural alterations.
  • II.2 - Concepts of Disease in East Asia
    pp 52-59
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    In the evolution of East Asian disease conceptions, the imagination of menacing outsiders represents not a transient stage of superstitions, which the rise of philosophy would supersede, but a thematic pole to which reflection on sickness would repeatedly return. In the philosophical ferment of the late Zhou and Warring States periods, a new conception of disease was emerged. Disease in the Han dynasty became a seasonal phenomenon. Earlier observers had recognized that different afflictions tended to characterize different seasons, such as the Zhou li. The Buddhist concept of karmic disease also traced sickness to an individual's past actions. The popularity of three-shi etiology derived in no small part from the fact that it united many streams of East Asian reflection on disease. The physicians of the Song and Yuan dynasties inherited a tradition of medicine and its key theme was the quest to reduce that distance.
  • II.3 - Concepts of Mental Illness in the West
    pp 59-85
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    This chapter discusses the stages and processes by which insanity came to be seen first as a medical problem and then as a matter for specialized expertise. In the second half of the nineteenth century, mental disorders gained a commanding social presence due to the perceived threat of the asylum population, the profusion of nervous disorders, and their linkage to a range of polarized issues. During the twentieth-century, Freud's conception of the unconscious referred to a realm of primitive, even carnal, desires that followed its own irrational inner logic of wish fulfillment. One of the striking developments of the postwar-years in the conceptualization of mental disorders has been the influence of the social sciences, especially sociology and anthropology. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Mental Disorders, reflected the extension of the Kraepelin and Freudian systems, augmented by new theories of personality. Psychiatry as a learned discipline contains no one school of thought that is sufficiently-dominant to control the medical meaning of insanity.
  • II.4 - Sexual Deviance as a Disease
    pp 85-91
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    Sexual deviance is technically any deviation from the sexual norm. Sexual disease, a new diagnostic category in the eighteenth century, was classed as a syndrome and seems in retrospect to have been an iatrogenic one based more on philosophical and moral grounds than on any medical ones. The great clinician, Hermann Boerhaave's observations of sex as a causal factor in some forms of illness also fit into a new medical theory known as vitalism, based on the work of Georg Ernst Stahl as well as others. These medical authors were developing new medical theories, and concern over onanism was increasing. Onanism was particularly debilitating to those who had not yet attained puberty, because it tended to destroy the mental faculties by putting a great strain on the nervous system. The decline in male potency and sexual activities with age were indicative, according to Tissot's theory, of the dangers of having lost semen or vital fluids earlier in life.
  • II.5 - Concepts of Heart-Related Diseases
    pp 91-102
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    Eighteenth-century practitioners published descriptions of coronary heart disease based on patients' reports of characteristic symptoms. People have felt the pulse to diagnose disease since antiquity. The London physician Thomas Lewis analyzed abnormal cardiac rhythms with the electrocardiogram, a new instrument that could record the electrical signals generated by the heart. In a sense, the development of hemodynamic diagnosis was returning full circle to the issues of pressures and volumes in the heart that William Harvey was working with in 1628. Two major forms of heart disease, rheumatic heart disease and endocarditis, related to infectious agents have undergone a dramatic shift in pattern. Treatment of patients with acute myocardial infarction has evolved from observing and supporting the patient to attempting to intervene in the disease process itself. The heart continues to have a central place in Western medicine. Cardiologists have become the most powerful subspecialists in internal medicine.
  • II.6 - Concepts of Cancer
    pp 102-110
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    Cancer was held to be caused by black bile. Carcinoma of the breast was probably the earliest actual neoplasm for which surgical eradication was attempted. Cancer was an inflammatory reaction to extravasated lymph, the type of lesion depending on its qualities. The concept of autonomy suggests that once a cell has become truly cancerous it is beyond bodily control. Exposure to radon gas has been clearly shown to be a cause of lung cancer in uranium miners. Thyroid cancer results from a small to moderate radiation exposure to the neck with a latency period of about a decade. The liver is subject to two principal types of cancer. One originates in liver cells, and a history of infection with the hepatitis B virus predisposes to this. The other originates in cells of the bile ducts. A predisposition to develop this form of cancer is caused by infestation with the liver fluke Clonorchis sinensis and related parasites.
  • Part III - Medical Specialties and Disease Prevention
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    This chapter traces the development of the concept of heredity and, in particular, shows how that development has shed light on the host of hereditary and genetic diseases people have come to recognize in humans. It discusses some basic-concepts and terms, and reviews the study of genetic disease from the Greeks to Garrod and the impact of Mendelism. The chapter outlines the heuristic model of genetic transmission that has come to be the standard of modern medical genetics. The most recent development in the study of human genetic diseases is traced through three specific examples. First, sickle cell anemia, represents a triumph of the molecular-model of human disease. The discovery of the second, Down syndrome, reveals the role in medical genetics of the cytogeneticist, who studies chromosomes. The third, kuru, exemplifies a case in which the expectations of modern medical genetics led initially to an erroneous conclusion, although that failure led eventually to spectacular new knowledge.
  • III.2 - Immunology
    pp 126-140
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    The history of immunology falls into two distinct periods, roughly before and after World War II. It begins with a fanfare, with the production of protective vaccines and antisera, probably the earliest example of truly effective medical treatment. In the nineteenth century, the startling success of the serum treatment of diphtheria had given rise not only to the practical problems of standardization and their solution, and to the international organization to coordinate the work, but also to a theoretical interest in the antigen-antibody reaction and the nature of specificity. The clonal selection theory had the effect of enormously enlarging the field, uniting its domains, and linking immunology to the broader biological sciences. One of the most significant continuities has been in blood grouping. As well as being directly utilized in hospital blood banking, the thinking about and techniques of blood group serology laid the conceptual foundation for human genetics in general.
  • III.3 - Nutritional Chemistry
    pp 140-147
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    The development of a workable system or science of nutrition had to await the development of modern chemistry with its significant advances at the end of the eighteenth century. Although the scientific evaluation of diets at the end of the nineteenth century focused on protein and energy, some realized that there were other requirements for a healthy diet. In particular, it was known that sailors on long voyages developed scurvy unless they periodically ate fresh green vegetables or fruit. As with ascorbic acid, the development of chemical analytic methods for determining the levels of each vitamin in foods and the inexpensive production of vitamins have enabled food manufacturers to fortify processed foods with them, without unduly raising their prices. Modern food industries have been able to process seeds and vegetables so as to extract the fat and sugar or, in the case of grains, to mill off the outer branny layers to yield white rice or white wheat flour.
  • III.4 - Diseases of Infancy and Early Childhood
    pp 147-157
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    In ancient times physicians wrote primarily on the care of infants, and only incidentally about children's diseases, because their concept of medicine stressed the maintenance of health rather than the diagnosis of specific disease entities. Cross-infection had frequently ravaged pediatric wards in the early nineteenth century; hence, with the discovery that microorganisms caused contagious diseases, the isolation of potentially infective patients seemed an obvious solution. According to English vital statistics, the main killers of infants were atrophy and debility, pulmonary diseases, convulsions and meningitis, diarrheal diseases, and tuberculosis. This chapter presents a list of important disease categories with a short discussion of how changes in traditional thinking gradually provided a new basis for remedial action. It discusses diseases related to infant feeding deficiency diseases, congenital abnormalities, and infectious diseases. The twentieth century paved way for the recognition and treatment of hormonal disorders, of hemolytic disease of the newborn, and of numerous neurological and viral disorders.
  • III.5 - Famine and Disease
    pp 157-163
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    Famine can be denned as a failure of food production or distribution resulting in dramatically increased mortality. This increase is attributable to three orders of disease: the disease of general starvation, behavioral disorders and social disruptions, and epidemic infection. Social responses to famine develop through three phases: the alarm phase, phase of resistance, and the exhaustion phase. Epidemic disease has the potential for ushering in general starvation, especially if infections debilitate or kill a large number of food producers. The several published lists of the world's major famines, all compiled before the 1970s, contain little mention of catastrophic food shortages among the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the New World. A rigorous historical detection of famine, should include evidence of a dramatic increase in mortality, and the evidence of a depression in live births.
  • III.6 - A History of Chiropractic
    pp 164-170
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    Chiropractic is a system of healing that holds that disease results from a lack of normal nervous function caused by a disordered relationship between the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. The American Medical Association organized in the early 1900s and developed into a powerful force, influencing nearly every aspect of the U.S. health care system. A close examination of chiropractic history helps identify the limits and the forces that define them. Chiropractic was a natural system of healing that allowed the body to manifest its intrinsic restorative powers. A milestone in the evolution of chiropractic was an increasing acceptance of the germ theory of disease. The 1950s and 1960s were a golden age for medicine. Federal support for biomedical science expanded enormously after World War II, and impressive diagnostic and therapeutic advances aided medicine's emergence as the most highly regarded profession in the United States. Chiropractic achieved federal recognition when it became incorporated into the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • III.7 - Concepts of Addiction: The U.S. Experience
    pp 170-176
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    Addiction has remained a vague concept in spite of efforts to define it with physiological and psychological precision. This chapter talks about opium, morphine and the hypodermic syringe, addiction and its treatment, cocaine, the U.S. response to addiction, origin of international control, the and establishment of an international bureaucracy. Opiate addiction is characterized chiefly by the repeated use of the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms, which include muscle and joint pains, sweating, and nausea. Mithradatum, theriac, and philonium are three ancient and renowned medicines that contained opium, among other substances, when compounded during the early centuries of the Roman Empire. The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meets annually to review the drug problem and make recommendations on policy to Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In its worldwide campaign against addiction, the United States early in the twentieth century asserted that the use of narcotics for anything other than strictly medical treatment was dangerous and morally wrong.
  • III.8 - Tobaccosis
    pp 176-186
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    The tobaccosis denotes, collectively, all diseases resulting from the smoking, chewing, and snuffing of tobacco and from the breathing of tobacco smoke. This chapter talks about origin and peregrinations of tobacco, and nineteenth-century wars and tobaccosis. It also discusses twentieth-century cigarette tobaccosis, pathogenic mechanisms and nature of the tobacco hazard. Among the lower classes, pipe smoking was the common method of tobacco consumption; among the European upper classes during the 1700s, pipe smoking was largely supplanted by snuffing. Cigarette smoking is the most serious and widespread form of addiction in the world. The fabric of evidence that cigarette smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis is woven of some evidential threads. First, the epidemic increase in ischemic heart disease in the United States during the twentieth century followed the rise in cigarette smoking and occurred particularly among those age-sex subgroups most exposed. Second, individual studies document a close relationship between heavy cigarette smoking and early coronary disease, among the others.
  • III.9 - Occupational Diseases
    pp 187-192
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    In recent years, occupational diseases have become an area of interest to medicine, public health, industry, and labor. The Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the methods of production and work relationships throughout the world. In industrial sections of the United States, individual physicians and state public-health officials participated in reform movements for workmen's compensation legislation, and the American Association for Labor Legislation led campaigns against problems as lead poisoning and phossy jaw. While a host of investigators began to study particular acute diseases caused by specific industrial toxins, the problem of dust in the environments of factories and mines galvanized the attention of the health-community and work force. Dust was a potential problem in virtually every industrial setting. In the first half of the twentieth century, labor and business focused mostly on silica dust, and though this diverted attention from the other dust diseases, it did lead to the formulation of public policies that were applicable to other chronic industrial diseases.
  • III.10 - History of Public Health and Sanitation in the West before 1700
    pp 192-200
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    This chapter examines the history of public health and sanitation in the west before the 1700s. It discusses the ideas and ideals of personal hygiene along with the development of concepts that led to genuine public health practices. The Hippocratic theory of the four humors, describing health as a balance of the humors, which in turn represented the four elements of all material substance, dictated the fundamental ways of preserving equilibrium through an individual's natural changes in age, diet, season, and exposure to noxious influences. In places like Western Europe, retreat to a rural economic base, the effective disappearance of cities and market economies, and the introduction of Germanic customs interrupted the Greco-Roman public health tradition. Caroline Hannaway has indicated, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the French, British, German, and, ultimately, U.S. traditions of public health relied mainly on the traditional Galenic-Hippocratic discourse about what ensured an individual's good health.
  • III.11 - History of Public Health and Sanitation in the West since 1700
    pp 200-206
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    The nature and role of public health are constantly changing, and its definition has been a major preoccupation of public health leaders in the twentieth century. In the eighteenth century, John Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, emphasizing the role of environment, encouraged intellectuals, to advocate improving the lot of human beings through social reform. In mid-nineteenth century, a host of scientists working in microbiology was changing the whole basis for public health. Important health area that had its origins in Europe in the late nineteenth century was school health. Since World War II, public health agencies, having won control over most of the contagious infections that formerly plagued the Western world, have turned their attention to chronic and degenerative disorders and to the problems of aging. The twentieth century has seen public health shift from an emphasis on the control of contagious diseases to the broader view that public health should concern itself with all factors affecting health and well-being.
  • Part IV - Measuring Health
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    The subject of early data on mortality is a vast one, and thus this treatment is quite broad. The emphasis is on identifying classes of data, sources of ambiguity, and general approaches to problems of interpretation. Statistics collected and special studies prepared by life-insurance companies represent an underutilized body of data for nineteenth-century mortality in the United States and Europe. There are two broad approaches to estimating completeness of death registration: direct and indirect. Relatively few sources of early mortality statistics can satisfy the Preston-Keyfitz-Schoen criteria. The deficiencies of such data are definition of death, misallocation of deaths by place of occurrence, age misreporting, completeness of registration, and cause misreporting. Errors in ascertaining true cause of death may arise from inaccurate diagnosis by the attending physician, failure to perform an autopsy, inaccurate autopsy results, including inability of the pathologist to specify multiple causes of death, and failure of the death certifier to take into account the results of autopsy.
  • IV.2 - Maternal Mortality: Definition and Secular Trends in England and Wales, 1850-1970
    pp 214-224
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    This chapter talks about the historical epidemiology of maternal mortality, the distribution and determinants of maternal mortality in England and Wales at nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In fact, the population at risk is not all women of childbearing age; it is only women during pregnancy, labor, or the puerperium. Maternal mortality has to be measured in terms of births, not total population. Work by R. Schofield suggests that the maternal mortality rate in England probably fell from about 100 per 10,000 births during 1700- 50 to around 80 during 1750-1800 and to between 50 and 60 in the first half of the nineteenth century. Three conditions, puerperal sepsis, toxemia, and hemorrhage, caused the majority of maternal deaths throughout the developed world from the mid-nineteenth century. Unlike deaths from septic abortion, those from puerperal fever were largely preventable. The risk of puerperal infection was greater because of the prevalence of the organism known as the Bhemolytic streptococcus.
  • IV.3 - Infant Mortality
    pp 224-230
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    This chapter reviews some of the relevant research and presents empirical justification for designating the infant mortality rate as the most sensitive indicator of the overall health status of any population group. More specific estimates of mortality in antiquity are limited to occasional estimates of "average life expectancy". Mortality rates have fallen dramatically in much of the world since the early days of the twentieth century, although life expectancy values are still lower than 50 years in a number of the lesser developed countries, particularly in Africa. The primary causes of this enormous mortality decline in the Western world lie in the unprecedented measure of control gained over those infectious and parasitic diseases. To understand more fully the association between income status and levels of infant mortality it is necessary to understand two broad categories of causes of death. These are exogenous causes of death and endogenous causes of death.

Page 1 of 8

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