Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-5zjcf Total loading time: 0.298 Render date: 2022-08-08T09:31:23.097Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Article contents

Cause of death as a historical problem

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 1997

GÜNTER B. RISSE
Affiliation:
Department of the History of Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

Abstract

PROBLEM NUMBER 1: THE SHIFTING ECOLOGY OF DISEASE

We all know that human disease is a constant and natural expression of conflicting forces and agents. As biological phenomena, diseases are never static. Influenced by physical and social agents, sickness shifts constantly in specific ecological settings. In infectious diseases, for example, constant readjustments within changing physical environments occur between pathogenic agents such as micro-organisms and viruses and their human hosts. As do other complex organisms, humans display a series of adaptive mechanisms which can both prevent or create illness; a lifetime of such encounters categorized as ‘wear and tear’ phenomena leads to distinctions between chronological and physiological age that are useful in assessing susceptibility to disease and life expectancy.

To understand the broad contours of human disease and periodic epidemiological changes in various parts of the globe – what physicians have called the ‘ebb and flow’ of disease – many historians therefore subscribe to the idea of a shifting ecology of disease. This dynamic concept presupposes complex interactions between both biological and non-biological factors which are ultimately responsible for different and changing patterns of sickness in time and space, exemplified, at least superficially, by McNeill's popular book Plagues and peoples. By highlighting the interconnectedness of various possible factors, including those which could ultimately cause death, the ecological model is quite useful to both historians and demographers.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1997 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
10
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Cause of death as a historical problem
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Cause of death as a historical problem
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Cause of death as a historical problem
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *