Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Epidemics in Modern Asia


Part of New Approaches to Asian History

  • Date Published: April 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107446762

£ 21.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Epidemics have played a critical role in shaping modern Asia. Encompassing two centuries of Asian history, Robert Peckham explores the profound impact that infectious disease has had on societies across the region: from India to China and the Russian Far East. The book tracks the links between biology, history, and geopolitics, highlighting infectious disease's interdependencies with empire, modernization, revolution, nationalism, migration, and transnational patterns of trade. By examining the history of Asia through the lens of epidemics, Peckham vividly illustrates how society's material conditions are entangled with social and political processes, offering an entirely fresh perspective on Asia's transformation.

    • Considers epidemic disease as a global phenomenon while remaining attentive to local, regional and global experience
    • Organized thematically and introduces key topics in Asian history through focused case studies
    • Outlines critical issues in contemporary science, making a specialist literature intelligible to students and a general readership
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Richly researched and keenly argued, Robert Peckham puts epidemic disease at the centre of a modern history of Asia. From China to India, this book unravels a history in which biology and Asian modernities have shaped one another. In so doing, he freshly recasts our understanding of how disease and social worlds are linked in complex political ecologies with unexpected pasts.' Alison Bashford, University of Cambridge

    'Accessible and engaging, yet subtly nuanced and perceptive, Epidemics in Modern Asia offers a masterful synoptic overview. It should find a place in many university syllabi, and will enhance courses on globalization and Asian societies, as well as histories of medicine, public health, and the environment.' Shigehisa Kuriyama, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Epidemic disease presents a critical challenge for human societies, none more so than those in Southeast Asia. Faced with imminent outbreaks and the prospect of future pandemics, the past is too often forgotten. In Epidemics in Modern Asia, Robert Peckham provides a salutary and timely reminder of why the past matters. He shows how history can help us to think in new ways about the cultural, social, and political dimensions of epidemics. Peckham not only writes disease back into history, but brings that history alive and demonstrates that the past is never in fact past. This highly original and important book should be required reading, not only for historians of modern Asia, but for those working on the frontline of public health.' Peter Piot, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

    'This excellent book provides an insightful and wide-ranging perspective on the role of epidemics in the making of modern Asian history. Robert Peckham's narrative moves deftly from the level of the individual neighbourhood to the regional scale of inter-Asian connections. Epidemics in Modern Asia demonstrates that epidemics have provoked political, social, and cultural responses that have transformed modern Asian states and societies. Peckham shows both the imperial continuities and the postcolonial ruptures in the health policies pursued by Asian nations. He deploys astute historical analysis to illuminate contemporary globalization in Asia, with its attendant and recurrent epidemic panics. Students will appreciate the book's lucidity and concision; specialists in the field will learn a lot from the sophisticated connections Peckham makes between medical, social, and political history.' Sunil Amrith, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'This work provides a new model for historians who have an interest in disease epidemics and gives the epidemiologists, who are currently highly medicalised, the opportunity to appreciate the foresight of Rudolf Virchow, a giant in the field of bioscience in Germany in the 19th century and the father of modern pathology, as well as one of the founders of modern public health, who stressed the importance of understanding social, cultural, economic, and political context of epidemics and the social actions needed to tackle them.' Patou Masika Musumari, The Lancet Infectious Diseases

    'This innovative study is an essential read for a number of audiences. Whether readers are interested in the lasting impacts of intersections between colonial and indigenous peoples, the history of world capitalism and trade, the development of bureaucratic structures and government power, and/or the demographic and environmental impacts of the rise of the modern world, Epidemics in Modern Asia presents a powerful revisionist interpretation, bringing the history of epidemics to the center of the frame.' Matthew Taylor Raffety, New Books Network (

    'Peckham … has penned an incisive text that foregrounds the social and historical role of infectious disease across Asia. … His book centers upon the reality of historical relations in India, China, and the Russian Far East; the author's focus is trained most effectively throughout case studies. … The book is useful for individuals teaching or practicing in the fields of history, political science, and medical education as well as in education and public health. … Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals.' L. H. Taylor, Jr, Choice

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107446762
    • length: 374 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.61kg
    • contains: 32 b/w illus. 4 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: contagious histories
    1. Mobility
    2. Cities
    3. Environment
    4. War
    5. Globalization
    Conclusion: epidemics and the end of history
    Select timeline
    Suggested reading

  • Author

    Robert Peckham, The University of Hong Kong
    Robert Peckham is Associate Professor in History and Co-Director of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine at The University of Hong Kong. His recent books include Imperial Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia (co-editor, 2013) and Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties (editor, 2015).

Related Books

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.